The AeroPress and Better Motel Room Coffee

I probably take my coffee more seriously than most and while I'm probably nowhere near as hard core as some, I do appreciate a good cup o' Joe. Which is why, when I'm on the road, that first cup of coffee in the morning can be a bittersweet moment.

You know you feel the same way. You want that hot cup of caffeine-rich goodness and this is all you see.

Someone with more discerning tastes would probably just man up and wait to get to that quaint coffee shop that they scouted out the previous evening as if marking caches of black gold (not Texas tea). But I'm either not a man of discerning tastes or I am more of an addict than I thought. (I can quit anytime I want. Really.)

What's a java junky to do?

Lucky for me I packed my AeroPress in my toiletries bag.

I first got really interested in the AeroPress when I heard Marco Arment (of Instapaper fame) talking about it on the show (Build and Analyze episode 9) that he does with Dan Benjamin on the 5by5 network. Marco is a real coffee nerd and I suspect he would be aghast at what I'm about to suggest.

(For a very good write-up on the AeroPress, check out this blog post by Shawn Blanc.)

Where were we? Oh! Yes. We were going to use the AeroPress to make coffee by using the supplies that our very reasonably priced room has been stocked with. Well, with one exception. With your Aerobie hardware, you need to also pack a small supply of filters.

So let's do this.

Normally, you are provided with two servings of coffee. Four if you include the decaf servings, which I don't. What you will want to do is take the coffee packet out, open it and dump the contents into your AeroPress. These square coffee pods are actually very easy to work with.

Use both packets. This is about getting the most bang for our buck here. No skimping!

We need some hot water. Fortunately we can make some use out of that coffee maker. Granted, there is not a lot of control over the temperature of the water we will get, but you work with what you've got, right?

Take one of the cups they have provided, fill it with water and run it through the coffee maker.

While things are heating up, take the other cup and get it set up to receive the bounty we are about to receive from our little plastic wonder.

Add water to your liking. Keep in mind that you probably did not end up with as much in the way of ground coffee as you would normally want to use. Adjust the amount of water accordingly. Probably up to the number 2 marked on the side.

Now the standard steps. About a 10 second stir and a 20 second press. Be very careful with the pressing. Depending on where you stay, you may have to deal with paper or styrofoam cups. The hand not doing the actually pressing needs to be holding the cup and, if possible, actually providing some support to the AeroPress base. (I couldn't show this because I don't have three hands and I really needed one for taking the pictures. Yeah, I know they aren't that great, but I hadn't had any coffee yet.)


If you prefer a more Americano style coffee, add more of the hot water that you did not use previously. If you like sugar, sweetener and/or a creamer-like substance, feel free. Personally, I like it straight from the tap.

This will not be anywhere close to the greatest cup of coffee you will ever taste, but given the ingredients at hand (hey, it did say "gourmet" on the package!) it will hold us over until we can find better. If you want to brave the TSA, a Ziploc bag of quality ground coffee from home might not be a bad thing to pack next to your shaving cream and deodorant.

Coffee: The Greatest Addiction

This video is pure awesome. 'Nuff said. Watch it!

Backstage Pass Time Lapse Test

At the end of February I helped with setting up a show at West Kentucky Community & Technical College. The series is called "Backstage Pass" and, in a nutshell, is about creating a small club atmosphere where the performers and audience are set in a more intimate arrangement.

Using my Canon 40D hooked to my Macbook Pro, I set things up in a corner to take a shot every 15 seconds for much of the day. The video you see was the result of that.

I used Lightroom 3 for some cropping and adjustments on each of the images, Photoshop CS5 Extended to create the video itself and then Youtube supplied the background music.

The Whistle Stop Cafe

The Whistle Stop Cafe
The Whistle Stop Cafe, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

This is the location for the Whistle Stop Cafe in Juliette Georgia where filming for "Fried Green Tomatoes" took place. The actual spot that was the inspiration for the Whistle Stop Cafe in the novel (and thus the movie) was actually the Irondale Cafe in Alabama. Some interesting history there.

I had my long lens on the camera and my other lenses packed so I took several shots with the intention of stitching them together to get a wide angled view. I also took bracketed exposures (2 full stops either way) because I wanted to get as much detail as possible without having the sky blown out and the porch darkened in shadows.

Thus, what I ended up with was 30 shots, all hand-held, from which I created 10 HDR images. Those were then stitched into this ~29 megapixel composite for some further massaging.

Daily Dilbert Webpart for SharePoint

I was recently asked about a Daily Dilbert web part that someone wanted to include on a SharePoint "My Site". This thing was being distributed as a solution to be installed by an administrator. I'm not sure why that would be and I had no interest in researching it further since the answer was about 30 minutes away.

First thing I did was to add an XML Viewer webpart. In the XML Link field I entered the URL for the official feed ( The next 29 minutes was allocated towards coming up with some basic XSL. This is where I landed.

<xsl:stylesheet version="1.0" xmlns:xsl="">
  <xsl:output indent="yes" method="html" />
  <xsl:template match="/">

      #tddMain h1 {padding:4px;margin:5px 0;background-color:#eee;color:#333;font-size:9px;}
      #tddMain img {width:100%;-ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic;image-rendering:optimizeQuality;}
      #tddMain p {display:none;}

    <xsl:variable name="ComicLink" select="rss/channel/item/link" />

    <div id="tddMain">
        <xsl:value-of select="rss/channel/item/title" />
      <a href="{$ComicLink}" target="tdd">
        <xsl:value-of disable-output-escaping="yes" select="rss/channel/item/description" />

A couple points of interest relating to the CSS.

First, the comic will scale itself based on the width of the container. Thus if it's shown at full column width, it will be huge or if it's shown in a sidebar, it could be very tiny. In the Appearance section of the webpart properties, you can set a fixed width if you want to exert some control over that behavior. Or adjust the CSS, of course.

Next, you'll notice that there is a display:none associated with paragraphs. The feed includes some advertising and wraps that in paragraph tags. The only reasons I'm hiding those are because they were not displaying anything and they were causing the browser (IE9) to do some very strange things. If I can figure out a way to include the ads, I will do so and follow up here.