A Collection of Thoughts & Discoveries

Technology, Business, Giving, Etc.

  • “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Ernest Hemmingway
  • “Judge each day not by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson
  • “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Gandhi
  • “Noble deeds that are concealed are most esteemed.” Blaise Pascal
  • “A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.” Ayn Rand
  • “If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” John D. Rockefeller
  • “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Thomas Jefferson
  • “Sense shines with a double luster when it is set in humility. An able yet humble man is a jewel worth a kingdom.” William Penn
  • “There is a great satisfaction in building good tools for other people to use.” Freeman Dyson
  • “You don't know what you can learn until you try to learn.” Ronald Coase
  • “Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” Mark Twain
  • “Create more value than you capture.” Tim O'Reilly

Category: Everything Else

Specific Gravity Calculator for Gemstones

A gemologist friend of mine recently complained about the tedium of calculating gemstone and mineral specimen specific gravity via the hydrostatic weighing method. You see, after weighing the specimen in air (at room temperature) and in water (at 4º Celsius, ideally) one must do a little math to determine the specific gravity (S.G.) of a sample. The formula is very simple: It’s the weight in air, divided by the loss of weight in water (at 4º Celsius). Or: the weight in air, divided by the weight in air minus the weight in water. Simple. Right? But when you do dozens (or more) of these a day, it gets tedious. High-end lab equipment will do the calculations for the technician, but my friend doesn’t have such equipment. And such equipment doesn’t help if one is in the field.

There are a few calculators on the Web, but most are not mobile-phone-friendly, and he likes to use his iPhone around his lab. So I coded this simple little web app to help my friend in his time of need. Of course he wants a native iOS app, but that seems a bit overkill for such a simple task.

Now I just need to update this site to modernize it and make it mobile-friendly. So little time…

If you’d like to use the calculator, you can go here and calculate ‘til your heart’s content. It’s labeled to suggest entering carat weight (for precision), but entering weight in grams is fine as well (but rounding may negatively affect accuracy, depending upon your precision). Most important is to not mix units of measure. end of article icon

Posted on Saturday, May 16, 2015 in TechnologyEverything Else

Cisco Switches to Weaker Hashing Scheme

“Cisco switches to weaker hashing scheme, passwords cracked wide open.”

In this day and age, for a company with such technical and financial resources such as Cisco Systems to “dumb down” their password hashing methods is inexcusable and irresponsible. As noted elsewhere here, other large companies (like LinkedIn) have employed poor password management practices and they and their users have paid for it.

It turns out that Cisco’s new method for converting passwords into one-way hashes uses a single iteration of the SHA256 function with no cryptographic salt.

Read about Cisco’s poor choice here on Ars Technica. I expect there’ll be a fix in an update, but sheesh. end of article icon

Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 in Everything Else

Garagiste Healdsburg: A Wine Lover’s Gem

Last Sunday my wife and I needed a day away from the grind, so we impulsively decided to explore a bit of wine tasting in Healdsburg, California – prompted by a random tweet by Chris Sacca in which he mentioned that Cartograph Wines is his favorite winery. Completely unfamiliar with Chris’ taste in wine, it really didn’t matter because we were looking for an excuse to get out… so,  Healdsburg or bust!

Healdsburg is located at the center-point of the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley wine producing regions. Thanks largely to the growth in quality wine production in this area – and high quality Pinot Noir wines in particular – Healdsburg has evolved from a quiet little town to a delightful destination with tasting rooms, charming and sophisticated restaurants, shops and great atmosphere. We encountered perfect weather, friendly people and happy dogs enjoying the day there.

Enter Garagiste Healdsburg

Garagiste Healdsburg is a wine tasting collaboration established by Cartograph Wines and Stark Wine – both, micro-wineries which share the same wine making philosophy of quality over quantity. They just opened the tasting room in July of this year and they’ve done a great job in my opinion. The venue has comfortable patio seating with a pleasant fountain, as well as inside seating, so take your pick. Or just stand at the bar and learn about their wines, as we did.

Our hosts were Cartograph Wines proprietors Serena Lourie and Alan Baker. Serena and Alan were an absolute delight to speak with, and both very open and informative about their wine making. Sincere passion for their craft is abundant and obvious in each of them – and infectious. Serena brought us up to speed regarding the wines that both they and Stark produce, while Alan shared specifics of the grape clones used for each wine. I’m a neophyte when it comes to Russian River and Dry Creek Valley pinots and Serena and Alan made me very comfortable as they shared their knowledge. Christian Stark was not at Garagiste on this day, but Serena and Alan are quite knowledgeable about the Stark offerings and explained the materials and processes which Christian employs in making his wines.

We tasted six wines – three from each winery. Cartograph Wines was offering two Pinot Noirs and a very nice Gerwürztraminer,  and Stark presented a Chardonnay, a Syrah and a Viogner – the latter employing grapes from the Sierra foothills because of the advantageous (for the variety) warmer weather there.

Five wines from Garagiste Healdsburg

Before visiting Garagiste Healdsburg I read on the Cartograph Wines website that they produce a Gerwürztraminer, but I must admit that the “Gerwürz” was of least interest to me. I love good pinots and cabs., and have never really been fond of floral or fruity Alsatian-style wines. Well, I got a lesson in how different this variety can be. The Cartograph Gerwürtz is pleasantly dry (just as they state on their website), yet complex and delicious, without a florid nose that I don’t care much for. A great surprise for me.

Two fine Pinot Noir wines are currently offered by Cartograph Wines: one with grapes from Floodgate Vineyards, and one made from Perli Vineyard grapes. Each is distinctly different, complex and elegant. In fact, we enjoyed a bottle of the Cartograph Wines Floodgate Pinot Noir last night with grilled pork tenderloin and pearl couscous made with sauteed mushrooms, pignoli nuts (pine nuts), celery, garlic, shallots and dried mission figs (simmered in a bit of the pinot to reconstitute) and it ROCKED! You should have been here.  ;-)

The Stark Wine Chardonnay is not a typical heavy-handed, oak-laden wine. We’ve grown tired of such wines, and have in fact largely moved away from Chardonnays because of the popularity (and ubiquity) of the heavy oak style. Serena explained to us that Christian Stark uses stainless and “neutral oak” barrels to avoid the heavy oak elements and that suits us just right. In fact, the Stark Chardonnay has a distinct coconut element, both on the palate and the nose. We look forward to enjoying a bottle with a nice halibut meal.

The Syrah from Stark is another example of the care with which both of these wineries craft their wines. It’s full-bodied, not overly round or mushy (as so many syrahs can be), and in fact it’s complex and well-balanced. To Stark’s credit, the current release is a 2006 vintage – a pleasure to see, in contrast to the really young reds that get pushed into the market much of the time these days. I need to taste this wine again, without tasting five other wines first, to better appreciate its nuances. I purchased two bottles for just such a study.

And finally, the Stark Viogner. I have very little experience with this variety, but enjoyed it very much. It boasts a strong stone fruit complexity that seemed like it would pair nicely with cheese and fruit. In fact Serena suggested that it is fantastic with a nice brie and apricots, and that made perfect sense.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a common thread here which applies to each of the wines from both of these micro-wineries: careful attention to quality to produce elegant, well-balanced, nuanced wines. It’s not often that we’ve tasted wines on our explorations where we actually enjoyed each wine we tasted and envisioned the setting in which we’d like to enjoy them again.

So enough of my blathering here. For those close enough to do so, put a picnic together and check out Garagiste Healdsburg. You probably need a break from the grind, too. They ship to many U.S. states as well.

Garagiste Healdsburg is located at 439 Healdsburg Avenue, two blocks north of the plaza. Their hours of operation are from 12:00 noon to 7:00 p.m., Thursday through Sunday (by appointment Monday–Wednesday).

Cheers! end of article icon

Posted on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 in Everything Else

Tomatillo Salsa Verde: My Favorite Salsa Recipe

Here’s the recipe for my favorite salsa. I’ve been asked for it several times by friends and provided it by phone, but when recently asked to email it I thought it would be better to just post it here. It’s a tomatillo salsa verde, or green salsa. It’s really simple to make and requires no cooking. This salsa is addictive when eaten with tortilla chips, but it’s also amazingly versatile as an accompaniment to various foods. I love it on grilled salmon – it’s great on halibut or chicken too. Use it on beef steak (or roast pork or lamb) similar to how you might use a chimichurri sauce. And it’s killer on mahi mahi or shrimp tacos and burritos. Oh, and breakfast potatoes and omelettes, and… well, you get the idea. Of course, all of this assumes it doesn’t get eaten before the food comes off the grill.

tomatillo salsa verde

Okay, enough talk. Let’s get to this easy recipe.


1 pound fresh tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, patted dry and quartered
1 bunch fresh cilantro (probably about 1/2 to 3/4 cup)
1 fresh serrano chili pepper, green, seeds removed, finely chopped [1]
1/2 to 1 fresh habenero chili pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped [1]
1 medium or large garlic glove (or two small cloves), quartered
1 ripe avocado
1 fresh lime [see note 2]
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper


In a food processor combine the tomatillos, cilantro, chilies and garlic. Add a few twists of fresh ground black pepper and a couple of teaspoons of kosher salt. I like this recipe with a bit of salt, but if you need to reduce the salt you can replace it with some lime juice to taste. Remember that kosher salt is less intense than iodized table salt. I usually add more salt, but taste it after processing to decide.

Blend well in the processor until the ingredients are well processed. Some texture is desired, but not big chunks.

Once well processed, taste for salt and adjust. You’ll be adding the avocado at the end, so anticipate that it will need a bit of salt for that. Also now is the time to squeeze in a bit of lime if you feel the tomatillos lack acid or are a bit sweet. They vary, so adjust to your taste.

Finally, add the avocado as chunks (be sure to keep the pit aside for later [3]) and PULSE the mixture just a few times until the avocado is evenly chopped and distributed as chunks larger than the rest of the salsa mixture.

That’s it. Enjoy!

The salsa improves with some time to allow the flavors to mingle. Making it several hours ahead of time is best. It lasts well in the refrigerator for a day or two (or three) if you store it covered, with the avocado pit placed in the container to help keep the avocado from turning brown.

If you want a bit of color and variety gently add diced tomatoes when you serve it. It’s also very nice with quality, tiny bay shrimp added and served with tortilla chips. We sometimes serve half the batch with shrimp and half without just to mix it up a bit.

[1] I find that the heat provided by the amount of chills in the above list is about right for a broad audience. However, I like it a bit spicier, so often make a hotter batch or divide it and make half as described and half with more chilies. Chilies vary in heat, so when you’re tasting for salt you can add more chili to kick it up if needed. Leaving the seeds and interior ribs of the chilies in will make the salsa spicier. Also, Jalapeños can be substituted, although the flavors of the serrano and habenero are really nice. Try a red and a green jalapeño if that’s the route you go. I chop the chilies before adding just to ensure even distribution.

[2] You may not need to add lime, but sometimes the tomatillos are a bit sweeter or “fruity” tasting. I like to add lime if there’s a lack of acid, etc.

[3] Storing with the avocado pit really makes a difference, so do keep it if you’re not planning to eat all of the salsa right away. Just place the pit in the salsa during storage and remove it when you serve (or don’t). end of article icon

Posted on Tuesday, August 2, 2011 in Everything Else

Facebook’s Deal with Goldman Sachs

DealBook in the New York Times has posted a decent article describing some of the legal issues associated with the recent 1.5 billion dollar arrangement Goldman and Facebook have made. The story has received a lot of attention and speculation in the press and blogoshpere, so this sheds a bit of light on some of the Security and Exchange Commission rules for such deals. It’s always fascinating to watch how big players maneuver to achieve their goals while staying within the letter of the law.

The first comment after the article points out a bit of confusion over SEC terminology, so you might want to read that as well.end of article icon

Posted on Monday, January 10, 2011 in Everything Else

Chicago Tribune Off-base on Chronic Lyme

M.I.T.'s Knight Science Journalism Tracker has an interesting piece on the nature of journalism surrounding the controversial topic of chronic lyme disease. The article could apply to most topics as “real journalism” competes with or even gives way to commentary, rhetoric and the blogosphere. In this case the Trib is being taken to task for publishing material weighted in favor of the reporters’ preconceived bias. This is all-too-common today with the ease of publishing and speed of distribution on the web, “link-bating”, and use of sensationalism to get page views, readers or television viewers. Real, objective journalism certainly seems to be an “endangered species” these days. 

If the topics of chronic lyme or quality journalism in science and medicine interest you, be sure to read the comments – and in particular those by Pamela Weintraub (editor of Discover Magazine and author of Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic). Part of my favorite comment:

I am saying, specifically, that, as in most science, there is a spectrum of perspective and considerable nuance among academic researchers as to what is going on with these patients: that the pathophysiology is complicated; and that the biomedicine to explain these patients has, in large part, yet to be done because we are still analyzing the genomics and proteomics of the pangenome –this is work out of Stony Brook, out of Robert Wood Johnson. We are still looking at the variability in the immune system of the human host. All this work is yet to be done…

Check out the article for context and the rest of the comment as well as the counter arguments.end of article icon

Posted on Saturday, December 18, 2010 in Everything Else

WSJ: Arrests Made in Insider Trading Probe

The Wall Street Journal has an article today on the the case of outside "consultants" working for Apple, Inc., Dell, and AMD who were being investigated for supplying information used for insider trading schemes.

It appears that AMD is the victim of an insider-trading scheme. An A.M.D. spokesman.

The individuals involved in supplying "highly confidential" information to others were well paid "networking consultants". Compensation for such transgressions are said to be in the "hundreds or thousands of dollars". The FBI is claiming that the four arrested were paid around $400,000 over time for their information provided to "hedge funds and other traders". This is said to have gone on over a period of time.

It’s always amazing how someone will throw their career, their reputation, and their family’s comfort away for a few thousand dollars.end of article icon

UPDATE: Today the WSJ published an article describing yet another insider providing information concerning insider trading events involving hedge fund managers. One wonders how widespread this problem really is (or maybe “wonder” is not really the word I mean here).

Posted on Saturday, December 11, 2010 in Everything Else

What’s in a Name? Allen, Allan, or Allyn?

If you’re human, there’s no need to read this post. It’s not for you, it’s for Google, Bing, and other search engines.

My last name, while not rare, is spelled in the far less common form of “Allyn”. When someone knows my name but doesn’t know the exact spelling or can’t recall it, they search on “Dale Allen” most commonly. The spelling of “Allen” is much more common and what typically comes to mind as someone attempts to spell my last name. So I’m making this post to help Google and Bing et al to know that someone looking for Dale Allen or Dale Allen Photography may actually be looking for me, but they just didn’t know the correct spelling. There are some sneaky methods for dealing with improperly spelled words or names for the benefit of search manipulation, but I’m interested in helping accuracy, so creating a post seems the most polite way to deal with it. This should help those looking for Dale Allen Photo or who misheard the name as David Allen, or maybe even a last name of Allan or Alan.end of article icon

Posted on Friday, December 10, 2010 in Everything Else

A New Beginning

Well, here we have it, a newly designed blog at my old domain. This had been mothballed for quite some time while I was working on other projects, including my photography website, among other things.

There’s a blog on my photography site, but that has remained rather focused on the subjects related to the art and business of photography. This site is intended to be more diverse in terms of topics, and mostly just a collection of items that I enjoy sharing and discussing, or which I wish to collect here for my later reference. With any luck, perhaps the topics will be of interest or help to others.

I’m still building a few bits of the blog portion of the content management, so there may be a few loose ends here and there. That will be remedied soon, once I finish building the necessary components to the ExpressionEngine portions of the site. Hopefully I’ll be getting that wrapped up in the coming few days. Please be patient and check back often to watch the progress. Thank you for visiting.end of article icon

Posted on Friday, December 10, 2010 in Everything Else