Archive for September 2009

Simpsonize Me!

September 30, 2009

Last week I had some fun using  some online tools to generate various styles of avatar. If you’re reading a blog (which you are), you probably know what an avatar is. But in case you’re saying “ava-what?”, what I mean by avatar is a visual representation of one’s self for use in online forums. The term comes from the Sanskrit “avatar” (अवतार) which means “to step down”, and refers to the incarnation or corporeal form taken by a deity when appearing on earth.
My brother had posted  a 1960’s style cartoonish portrait of himself on facebook, which at first I assumed he’d created by hand from cut paper, since that is one of his primary art mediums of choice (my brother’s cut paper artwork really is cool; check it out). I was surprised to find that I could create my own papery 60’s self-portrait at

madmen_fullbodyThis generator tool really is fun to play with. It’s like a 2D Mr. Potato Head. Playing with this made me wonder what other kinds of avatar generators were out there and I found this one, which allows you to create a Simpson’s style picture of yourself.  Rather than choosing parts and features like the Mad Men tool, this one actually starts with a user-supplied picture and then allows some fine tuning. I was pretty impressed with how well it seemed to work:simpsonize_compare

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Braided Calzones

September 30, 2009


I made some braided calzones during tax season, as can be seen below from the forms strewn about the back of the table. I think they turned out pretty well, and the same method could be used for strudel type dessert pastries if one used pie crust instead of pizza dough.

Here’s how the construction goes: (more…)

Pumpkin Portrait

September 9, 2009
Beth and Brian Sullivan on Jack-O-Lantern

Beth and Brian Sullivan on Jack-O-Lantern

I realize that fall doesn’t officially begin until September 21st, but I had my first apple pie of the year last night at a friend’s house warming party, and I love this time of year. So, I thought I’d do a post in honor of the beginning of autumn now.

When I was growing up, there was a pumpkin display in the town park each fall, and I was always impressed by the jack-o-lanterns that looked like celebrities or otherwise realistic looking faces. So when I went to the Keene Pumpkin Festival with some friends a few years ago, I thought I’d try my hand at a pumpkin self-portrait of me and Beth. (Not that we are celebrities, but I think we have at least potentially realistic looking faces…) I started out with this photo:
If you are interested in turning any photos into jack-o-lanterns, here is the method I used… (more…)

Gonzo, the leaping minke whale

September 7, 2009

Gonzo's Head Emerges from the Bay

We had such amazingly good luck on this vacation. To begin the week, Hurricane Bill exited the Gulf of Maine just as we arrived at Campobello Island. Then to close out our vacation, the remains of Tropical Storm Danny arrived just after we left the island. So we missed both storms, and in between the weather behaved perfectly. The last night of  vacation, when we would have suffered tent-bound through a night-long downpour, we were sleeping in a warm dry bed at the Pleasant Bay B&B and Llama Keep in Addison,ME.

On top of the excellent fortune regarding weather, we enjoyed several incredible whale watching experiences. I have been totally spoiled where whale watching is concerned. I described the first outing in my previous post. However, I learned that not all whale watches are so fortunate…

Head Harbor Light House

Head Harbor Light House

Whales swim within eyeshot of the shore at several locations on the island’s coasts. One afternoon we decided to look for some of these shore loving whales at Head Harbor Lighthouse on the northern tip of the island. Within a few minutes we saw two minke whales! (Actually it could have been the same one twice. Those minkes are fast).  A vacationing family with two young sons came out onto the point to look for some whales just in time to miss the minkes. They were staying in Bar Harbor and had driven up for the day to see the island.  (The drive up from Bar Harbor takes about two hours).  The couple recounted their whale watching experience, which happened a few days earlier when seas were still rough from the passing hurricane. Apparently half of their boat was vomiting over the side from sea sickness, but it was sufficiently windy that the non-vomiting half of the boat had to duck and hide behind the benches to avoid airborne vomit! On top of all that, they didn’t see a single whale.

Our luck, however, continued when on the evening of my 29th birthday we set sail on a sunset cruise and whale watch out of Eastport, Maine. This little town boasts the title of “The Easternmost City in the United States with a Population of Greater than 1000.” Our vessel: the Sylvina W. Beale, an 84′ wooden schooner with red sails.

Donnie on the bow of the Sylvina W. Beale

Donnie on the bow of the Sylvina W. Beale

The sea air blew frigidly that evening, but no one vomited, and while we were out we witnessed this:

Apparently minke whales do not normally breach. I only recorded him doing this about five times in this video, but I actually lost count of how many times in a row this whale breached–must’ve been 25 or 30. We actually got close enough to smell his fishy breath. Many have formulated theories about why whales breach, but no one is really sure. Donnie, a crewmember on the Sylvina Beale believes that they do it when they have gas. Maybe we were smelling whale burp.
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Right Whale Sighting

September 3, 2009


Beth and I just got back from a week long vacation on Campobello Island, a Canadian island in the Bay of Fundy, which is off the coast of Maine. While we were there we saw three of the 400-450 North Atlantic Right Whales–almost 1% of the total population. Here’s a clip of the first one we saw:

You can identify this as a right whale by the distinctive “V” shape of the spouting (at 0:55 in the clip above). It’s kind of funny that the two nostrils don’t fire at exactly the same time. I think I’d have to be a pretty advanced yogi to breathe with asynchronous nostrils. I learned on this outing that baleen whales have two nostrils like us (and most of our other mammal buddies) while toothed whales have just one blowhole. Nostril is kind of a gross sounding word until you consider the alternative of having something called a “blowhole” in the middle of your face.

Right whales are so named not because they have conservative political viewpoints, but because whalers considered them the “right” whales to hunt. This was because they floated after being harpooned and they often swim close to the shore.
About twenty minutes later after seeing the whale above, we saw this right whale mother and calf:

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