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Cheesemaking at Sol Food Festival

I just added a new page (available from the top menu) with a few of my favorite cheesemaking related resources. My two favorite books are listed along with two of my favorite web sites and a forum I follow. I’ve also posted the recipe that I partially demonstrated at the festival.

I’m actually writing this before the festival, so I’ll try to make a longer post after the event.



Headless Horseman from Sleepy Hollow TV Show

CostumeThat’s me! For the San Diego Comic Con 2013, I decided to spend some time as the Headless Horseman from the upcoming Fox TV show Sleepy Hollow (premiering this coming Monday, Sept. 16, 2013). I made the costume from scratch, and based it on the logo image from the show, and a lot of repeat viewings of the trailer.

Now, the important part of the story (which I’ve buried to the second paragraph), is that I know the guy who originated the show! Phillip Iscove is the stepson of Harriet’s recently discovered half-sister. And yes, I carefully crafted that sentence because calling him my nephew would be completely misleading. The story of Gayle coming into our lives is a long and amazing journey which is best told by she and Harriet, but we’ll keep things abbreviated and just say the experience has been beyond wonderful. Gayle and her husband Michael have been amazing additions to our lives, and their son Phillip is wonderful. For the last 10 years he’s been trying to break into Hollywood as a writer. He wrote a pilot for Sleepy Hollow that was picked up by Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci (the guys involved with the Star Trek films, Transformers, Fringe, and a bunch of other genre products). They loved it, and we’ve been following (voyeuristically) his progress. Couldn’t happen to a nicer, more deserving guy.

Sleepy Hollow ImageSo, when I was thinking about a costume for this year’s Comic-Con, I went right to the most bad-ass image I’ve seen all year: that revolutionary war themed headless horseman swinging an ax and firing a machine-gun. The character has a fantastic costume which includes an historic coat, all of those weapons, and the technical challenge of looking headless!

I spent months working on the costume including making the coat from a historic recreation pattern (and thanks go out to Harriet and her home ec training for constantly clarifying what the hell I was reading, e.g. facing is on the inside of the coat). I built the ax and shotgun shells from wood and paint, but the guns (toys and reproductions) and gun belt were purchased.

It was all unveiled at the SDCC 2013 and it was a hit! Lot’s of people wanting photos, a couple of interviews (Playboy video?), and I even won a Hall Costume Award from the Costume Designer’s Guild. I was the only home made headless horseman, but there were 10 others that Fox put together to promote the TV show. They were everywhere, and when folks say they may have seen me, it was most likely one of the Fox models. It would have been cool to be the only headless horseman, but I hadn’t really anticipated that and so it wasn’t really a disappointment. The whole thing was way cooler than I imagined, and I’m curious to see if there are more home made costumes next year, when the show’s a hit.

Here are a couple more pictures from the Con.



We’ve become interstellar explorers!


I am damn excited about this. Yesterday (Sept. 12, 2013), NASA announced that Voyager 1 has officially left the heliosphere and entered interstellar space. The crossover occurred August 25th, but it took this long for NASA to verify the finding, and make the announcement. The crossover occurs when the influence of sun is basically over, and so the probe is experiencing space as it exists between stars.

This is historic. This is the first human made object to enter interstellar space, and what’s even more exciting is that this 36 year old probe is still work, sending back data to Earth. We are actually exploring interstellar space. Below is a link to the NASA announcement.

I can’t express how amazing this is for us as a species. We are explorers, and this is a huge step in our accomplishments as explorers. It’s beyond words.



Fun with Infrared

alan_soda2.gifI just came across this image which was taken quite some time ago (pre-2006). I was at work testing an infrared camera, and I captured this picture to see the camera’s responses to various temperatures. This wasn’t an official test, just an informal (and amusing) experiment. The camera isn’t in great focus, but come on, it’s a thermal image of me drinking from my infamous soda mug.

To interpret these sorts of thermal images, the dark parts are cold and the whiter parts are hot. The colder an object, the darker it appears. So, my balding head is hotter than my beard and glasses. Even better, you can see that the straw in my mouth is really cold because I’m sucking up some refreshing, ice cold diet coke.

Now some of you may be asking ‘What are you doing with an IR camera?’ At some future point, I’ll make a more complete post about the nature of my work – but for now I’ll just say that I develop test applications for the infrared industry.

Theatrical Combat!



That’s Nick Holmes and me performing a live bit of fencing at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.  It was part of the live entertainment at a fundraising masquerade for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

harrietfencingFirst, let me say that Harriet is the real fencer in the family. She trains, she competes, and she’s serious. I have no interest in competing and am happy to be the fencing support, bearer, photographer, and occasional armorer. But, when I found out Tim, her instructor from Presidio Fencing, also teaches theatrical fencing, I was intrigued.

I will also admit that I’ve seen shows put on by the Saber Guild, a light saber combat troupe that performs for charity events in Southern California, and I’m very interested in doing something similar.

And so, several months ago I finally started taking lessons with Tim. I love it. And I’m surprised by how much improvisation can occur when performing theatrical combat. Choreography can also be part of the performance, but I was pleasantly surprised at the spontaneity that’s possible. It warms my improviser’s heart.

By lucky coincidence, Tim was contacted by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival about a fundraising event they had planned. To support several of their programs, they planned to show the 1920’s silent film “The Mark of Zorro” starring Douglas Fairbanks, and afterwards host a masquerade at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. They asked if Tim could put on some sort of fencing performance as entertainment.

Let’s see, does Tim know someone who’d be willing to get in front of a large crowd and ham-up some sort of fencing performance? Oh yeah!

We originally planned that Tim and I would perform, but he had a conflict. So, we enlisted our friend Nick, who is a fencer and experienced at historic combat recreations (pictures from his Korean War event are amazing). He’s young, good looking, and by far the better fencer – so he was the obvious hero of our piece. I’m older, balding, and thug-like in my technique, so I’m the obvious bad guy. We practiced over several weeks, breaking one of his sabers, drawing blood (Nick’s), and developed blisters.

On August 25th we did our performances and they were quite the success! It was a lot of fun and well received. The YouTube videos from the movie and the masquerade are linked, below. My yammering at the beginning of the masquerade show was to give time for the staff to clear a space in the middle of the audience. You should also notice that we had to maneuver in such a way that we wouldn’t snag the light cords hanging overhead. That show was a particular challenge beyond the fencing.

So, in the future I’d love to do more of this. My private lessons are now over, but I’m going to arrange a special workshop with Tim for folks in the improv group. I’ll look for a chance to take other classes and see if I can connect with some sort of performing troupe or maybe put one together myself. We’ll see (as Harriet rolls her eyes).