Purim 2015

With the 10th Annual Kosher Chili Cookoff and the Purim Carnival both happening on the same day at the JCAA, we knew we had to come up with a special costume.

So after lots and lots of deliberation, Ilán and I settled on the classic crowd pleaser: The Ugly Nun and The Ugly Nun mini. Turns out Ilán has managed to put on a lot of weight since he was a week old without really growing much hair. This forced us to create a brand new The Ugly Nun costume. Fortunately, mine still fits.

Unlike every other day of his short life, Ilán decided to actually sleep in that day. That means we missed the costume contest (we were a shoe in for first prize, I mean, look at me) and missed eating chili too! (whatever, it’s kosher chili, can’t be that great).

Too bad, we’ll need to dress up the same next year. And since this blog is like Playboy and people come for the photos and not the articles, here you go:

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Left: The Ugly Nun. Right: The Ugly Nun mini

 

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Blinking contest. He won.
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Believe it or not, women find The Ugly Nun irresistible. Here’s proof.

 

B’nai Abraham Synagogue

I find it kind of cool and terribly impressive that full buildings can be moved from one place to another.

This happened last Friday here in Austin, as the B’nai Abraham Synagogue was moved from Brenham to Austin. This is the oldest synagogue in the state, or at least the oldest in continuous use, if you believe Wikipedia. It was built in 1893. It will now be the only orthodox synagogue in Austin.

I stopped by looking to take my mom to eat Kosher BBQ (they were sold out so the review will have to wait).

Here’s some additional reading in The New York Times and Austin Monthly.

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The guy at the back of the line was the most disappointed of all.

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Mexico City trip report

I flew to Mexico City last weekend. Here are some highlights:

Galia

The main reason of my lightning trip to Mexico City was to meet my new niece Galia, who also happens to be Ilan’s baby cousin. Lots of hair an big blue eyes as you can see in the picture. On the baby as well! She’s a cutie.

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Galia and favorite uncle.

 

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Galia and favorite uncle playing the stare game. She blinked first, I’m still the champion.

Xochimilco

Jacobo and family, my mom, and I went to Xochimilco. People complain it’s dirty and not worth it. They are wrong, it’s great. We got there “early” (Mexico City standards) at around 10 AM and were the only people there. We made the strategic mistake of eating breakfast at the hotel which sucked because the food looked amazing there. On the other hand, the food was amazing at the hotel.

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With the little gringos.

 

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Mexican hotel breakfast is the best.

 

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It used to be that after a shot of tequila, you’d shake your head. Nowadays you spin upside down from a pole hanging from your feet. The after-effect is magnified.

 

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Left: My brother Jacobo Right: A guy in a sweater photo bombing us.

Estadio Azteca

On our way back from Xochimilco we passed the legendary Estadio Azteca, where Pelé (1970) and Maradona (1986) both raised the FIFA Cup. We decided to stop and check if they have tours. It happens that they do.

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In the tunnel where the players head out to the pitch. On the left, signs for every team to ever visit the stadium – except, they explained – Pumas and Guadalajara. On the right, photos of memorable moments. In the middle, a couple of tourists who aren’t very good at playing soccer.

 

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On this field Mexican players won the U17 World Cup in 2011. The players were less than half my current age. Damn!

 

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At the press briefing room. Yes, the trophy is fake. And nobody from the press showed up.

Pujol

My brother was in a foodie mood for his birthday. We went to a fancy schmancy restaurant in Polanco called Pujol “ranked 17th best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine in 2013″ according to Wikipedia. And Wikipedia never lies, right?

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A plate of mole, and nothing else, at Pujol.

We had a seven-course dinner that involved everything from mezcal to ants, all in tiny portions. The highlight of the night, in my opinion was the “Mole madre, mole nuevo” which is a little scoop of mole that has been cooking for (I shit you not) 562 days with an even smaller scoop of mole of a more recent vintage. You get a few handmade tortillas to scoop it up and that’s it. It was as good as you’d expect from something that had taken 562 days to prepare. I told the waiter that it was good and he can now bring me the full portion. He didn’t get the joke.

This week in terrorism

Europe, Charlie, and Hamas

While the European Union debates whether Hamas should be in their “terrorist organization” list, France is hit by two terrorist attacks from islamic extremists.

Hamas condemns the one where Jews were not directly targeted (Jews died in both) but not the one on the kosher supermarket. But then there’s a rally in Hamas-controlled Gaza “in support of French terrorists, Islamic State”.

Later in Israel, a terrorist stabs a bunch of people in Tel Aviv. Of course Hamas praises the attack as a “heroic and courageous act.”

Keep debating, Europe.

Bonus: Did you hear about the CNN anchor quitting over his intelligent tweets on the matter?

Argentina

Over twenty years after the horrific terrorist attack in AMIA, nothing has been solved yet even though it is widely known that the attack was perpetrated by Iran and Hezbollah and there’s evidence the Argentinian government was bribed to block the investigation. Now the Argentinian Prosecutor Alberto Nisman is found dead on the eve of eve of a congressional hearing. Suicide? Yeah right. More info.

It’s inconceivable that a government would work to protect those responsible for an attack on its territory that killed over 80 Argentinian citizens. But this is exactly what’s happening. Also, this happened this week in Argentina.

Depressing.

Happy 2015

This website is now 12 years old. That means we have quite a bit of readers for whom The MKX has always been around. Kind of how cars and airplanes already existed when I was born, just more significant.

Have a great year!

Preserving childhood memories: revisited

My parents came to visit and on my request brought along three fat photo albums from when I was born. I needed to show my wife that our son does indeed have an eery resemblance to my extremely young self, if not my adult self.

As you’d expect from photos that are over *ahem* twenty years old, they’ve suffered from some terrible degradation (older post on the subject). Not surprisingly, the photos degraded differently based on the photo development process and paper used. Some even got extremely blurry – and I think those are a lost cause.

So obviously I need to scan them all. To make the digitizing work worse, and unlike my wife’s old photos, these are glued to the album pages with transparent cellophane on top. To try and pry the photos off the album will most likely destroy them, so they need to be digitized off the page. I think this means that using a digitizing service like we did before will not be possible.

Here’s what the album looks like:

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On these pages: My uncles Sammy and Eli, myself, my aunt Jave, my great-grandmother Leike, my mom, and half of my brother Jaco’s face.

 

Like crap (please don’t get me started on idiotic Instagram filters people are using nowadays).

I already finished scanning one of the three albums. It wasn’t a fun process. I used an Epson Artisan 837 and the built-in Image Capture application that comes with OS X. I scanned everything at 600 dots-per-inch, which I believe easily exceeds the sharpness of the old photos.

One nice thing about Image Capture, is that it can auto-detect the photos on the page, and scan each one of them as an individual file.

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It will even fix rotation! Unfortunately I didn’t have great luck with this because, as you can see, the glue is extremely yellow at this point so the program had trouble recognizing where the photos are. I would end up selecting the photos by hand.

This made the process quite tedious:

  1. Take out page from album
  2. Remove cellophane
  3. Place on scanner
  4. Go to computer, press “Overview”
  5. Wait
  6. Adjust what photos will get scanned
  7. Press “Scan”
  8. Wait
  9. Flip page to scan the other side
  10. Repeat process from #4 to #8
  11. Put cellophane back on page
  12. Reinsert to album

Hardly a model of speed, automation, and efficiency.

I will refine the process for the other two albums, no doubt. For one, I will skip overviews and just scan full pages. It will make scanning a lot faster. I will also try and connect the scanner over USB rather than WiFi. I have a hunch that this was the main bottleneck to the scanner’s speed and not so much the digitizing itself.

But this means that I would need to cut individual photos out from a single page scan to individual files as a post-processing step. My goal is to automate this – research needed and advise appreciated.

The last step: fixing the colors of the photos. I played around with adjusting all the color curves of a specific photo manually on the excellent Pixelmator. This is what the original photo looks like:

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Chanukah 1978 at the kinder in Monterrey. Ironically, I’m not even in this picture but it’s appropriate given the time of year right now. I recognize almost everyone on it, though, in spite of the crappy quality.

 

It took a bunch of tweaking, but the results seem pretty good:

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Chanukah 1978 at the kinder in Monterrey, color corrected. #nofilter

 

Not bad, huh? (you can click to zoom in)

Of course, fixing each photo manually like this would take a tremendous amount of time. I think the way to go, barring a completely automated solution, is to group photos by era, album, and photo paper; since those would all degrade the same way. I can then apply the same combination of color-correcting filters. I haven’t yet figured all of the details out, so this is material for a future post. Far into the future most likely.

For now the important thing is to scan the rest of the photos so we can freeze the color degradation.

Reinventing the wheel... one spoke at a time.