Bicycles in Language →

December 17, 2014 |

Mikael Colville-Andersen, worldwide bicycle ambassador and founder of Copenhagenize Design:

I have always been fascinated by how the bicycle has muscled its way into various languages. There are numerous bicycle references in Danish that are used by reflex, without any direct reference to a bicycle anecdote. I started wondering if this is the case in other languages and have scribbled notes down based on conversations with colleagues and friends.

This is awesome. Here’s to adding many more references to this list in the future.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Tyson Robichaud reviews the Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95 lens for Micro Four Thirds →

December 17, 2014 |

This is an outstanding review, including two series of images that clearly show the behavior of the lens across the entire aperture range. I for one was surprised to see the subtle variations across different F-stops, as well as how good it is wide open. Every lens reviewer out there should do this.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the Voigtlander lenses for Micro Four Thirds. There are currently three — soon to be four — lenses in the lineup, and they’re all incredibly well-built and fast, with a maximum aperture of f/0.95. For those of you keeping score, that’s almost one full stop faster than its closest Micro Four Thirds competitor, the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2. This is how ridiculous that number is:

I love being able to save a stop or two in ISO value while out and about in the darker hours, and the focal length lends itself beautifully to candid, intimate shots, portraiture or street shooting. It’s heavy, but compared to an equivalent full frame optic, what am I saying, there are so few full frame optics even close to offering this set of skills that for those few that are out there, I’ll never even be able to dream of affording them. That, I believe, is the best thing that this lens offers. It’s built to last and gives micro 4/3 shooters an optical tool that most every photographer dreams about.

That’s exactly what’s so great about the Micro Four Thirds system. The 2x crop-factor of the sensor means that depth of field and high-ISO performance are roughly equivalent to a full-frame lens with double the focal length and F-stop number. For example, the Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 would be roughly equivalent to an 85mm f/1.8 full-frame lens in terms of depth of field and high-ISO performance. However, speed — or rather, light-gathering ability — does not follow the same rule, and is the same regardless of the system. What this means is that the Voigtlander is actually a true f/0.95 lens in terms of speed, and it would be capable of capturing the exact same amount of light as a full-frame f/0.95 lens.

This extreme light-gathering ability would be priced in the multi-thousand-dollar range if it were a full-frame lens. For example, the legendary Leica Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 comes in at a whopping $10,745 on Amazon right now. By comparison, the $999 price tag of the Voigtlander looks rather quaint if you ask me. Robichaud seems to agree:

It’s not cheap, that is for sure. But this is not a cheaply made lens, and if you look at what it provides, there is no lens for any system, anywhere that can do what this lens does for near this same price at this same level of build and image quality that I’ve ever heard of. In that way, maybe it is kinda cheap.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

A Simple Guide To Buying Shit For People You Hate Buying For →

December 17, 2014 |

Ben Brooks offers some solid advice for late holiday shoppers:

We all have those people in our lives which seem impossible to buy for. I have a great many of them, so here’s some go to items (here’s hoping they don’t read this, ha) I am using this year.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

A Comparison of How Olympus and Sony’s 5 Axis Stabilization Systems Work →

December 17, 2014 |

Chris Gampat, The Phoblographer:

At a recent media excursion with Sony, we were given a presentation on how their sensor stabilization works. For starters, Sony stated that it needed to develop a brand new system independent of Olympus’s for many reasons–but the most notable reason has to do with the fact that Olympus’s system was developed for the Micro Four Thirds world. Sony’s would need to be developed for a full frame system and in order to do this, the company pulled engineers from many parts of its company to develop the technology.

Stabilizing a full frame sensor takes a lot more work than it would for a Four Thirds sensor–and that’s why Sony developed the system that they did.

Fascinating stuff.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Parallax Error →

December 17, 2014 |

John Carey has a few interesting thoughts on the optimal wallpaper resolution for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus:

When you set a wallpaper, iOS makes a copy of the image and saves it internally, this way if you delete the original, you won’t loose [sic] your wallpaper. The problem is that the file it saves is only adequate for a vertical orientation so when you rotate your home screen the image blows up and becomes horrible looking. Troubling! Apple’s default images always rotate perfectly because they are stored internally within iOS and maintain the correct resolution for the longest side of the screen when rotated horizontally, a technique first seen in the original iPad.

If you’re using your own pictures as wallpapers, you should read this.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

NOTE: This is the fourth article in my Introduction to Whisky series. You can read the past articles in the series here.

After Glenmorangie Ten Year Old - The Original, which I reviewed here a few weeks ago, The Quinta Ruban is the next step in Glenmorangie’s core range. It’s a 12-year-old single malt and it’s the result of letting The Original mature for an extra couple of years in Portuguese port casks.

Glenmorangie 12 Year Old - The Quinta Ruban. Photo Credit: Spencer Blake

I already wrote in some detail about the origins of the Glenmorangie distillery in my review of The Original, so I won’t repeat that part here. If you haven’t read that article, now would be an excellent time to do so. It’s OK, I’ll wait. Besides, The Original is actually the base for The Quinta Ruban, so it makes sense to get to know it before venturing in deeper waters.

Back already? Awesome. Then let’s take a closer look at The Quinta Ruban and see what we find.

A word about Glenmorangie’s wood-finished variants

According to Wikipedia, finishing is “the procedure that some whiskeys [sic] undergo whereby the spirit is matured in a cask of a particular origin and then spends time in a cask of different origin”.

Besides The Quinta Ruban and The Original, Glenmorangie’s core range currently includes two other 12-year-old wood-finished single malts. The Lasanta is finished in Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks and The Nectar D’Or is the Sauternes-finished variant.

If you’d like to taste all of them, Amazon UK has a nice gift set that includes a 10 cl bottle of each of the four variants for £36.99, or about $60. It would be a fantastic gift for any whisky aficionado.

Glenmorangie Gift Set. Photo Credit: Dominic Lockyer

Port and Sherry are fortified wines — Sauternes is a sweet wine from France — that are commonly used by some distillers to finish their whiskies. In this case, Glenmorangie’s master distiller tried to add an extra layer of complexity by incorporating some of the sweetness and richness of these strongly aromatic wines to their already excellent The Original. The results, however, are a bit of a mixed bag. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Learning to nose whisky, one dram at a time

The Quinta Ruban is the first whisky I’m tasting — or nosing, as the term seems to be — off a single-serving 3 cl dram. I purchased a set of 13 different drams on Master of Malt a couple months ago, when I put together the list of whiskies I wanted to taste in my first approach to the world of single malt whisky. This was not one of my 11 original selections, but I added it to the list at the last minute on Matt Gemmell’s recommendation.

The drams themselves are lovely. They look a bit like antique apothecary bottles, and they feel right at home in my liquor cabinet. The red wax seal preserves all the aroma and character of the whisky, and the label displays all the information you need. It’s a wonderful way to peruse rare or expensive whiskies without needing to spend hundreds of dollars.

The only complaint I have about these drams — and it’s admittedly nitpicking — is their size. They’re perfectly adequate, but I can’t help but feel they’re just a tiny bit too small for my taste. It’s so close that it really is a shame; a measure of 4 cl instead of 3 would have been perfect. It doesn’t look like much, but if there’s one thing we can all agree upon it’s that, all other things being equal, more whisky is better.

The Quinta Ruban

The Quinta Ruban is described by Glenmorangie as “The darkest and most intense whisky in the extra-matured range”. It’s certainly darker than The Original, with a lovely mahogany color that I would rate as 1.6 on the Whisky Magazine color chart:


Click or tap on the chart to view it full-size

The difference between this one and The Original — which I rated as 0.2-0.3 on that same chart — is striking:

Yes, your eyes don’t deceive you: there is more whisky — and therefore, more happiness — in the second glass

This difference is not only cosmetic, mind you: unlike The Original, The Quinta Ruban is non-chill filtered and has no caramel coloring. That means the color we see is entirely due to the distillation process. In this case, The Quinta Ruban owes its darker, richer color to the time it spent maturing in port casks.

The nose

No matter how many times I tasted The Original, I was never able to discover any fruity aromas, and that drove me mad. Here, on the other hand, they’re present in spades, but that doesn’t make The Quinta Ruban any easier to nose. Here’s a video of the official tasting notes by Glenmorangie’s master distiller:

On my first approach I was immediately surprised by its boldness, and the overwhelming sensation that washed over me as I inhaled. A very strong aroma compared to The Original, I thought of bitter oranges and something like peaches, but not quite. There’s also a bit of caramel, or toffee. The port comes through with a hint of sweetness in the end.

This dram has been a constant struggle for me because the components are all there, but not in their usual form. It’s like they’ve been tampered with, almost. You think you smell oranges, but then you think of marmalade. You think you recognize a hint of cinnamon, but on your next pass it’s gone. It’s as if too many scents were fighting for your attention, and the total was somehow less than the sum of its parts.

Of course, one can never discount the fact that this may be due to my inexperience in nosing whiskies as complex as this one. I assume that a more seasoned nose would be able to appreciate it in its full glory, but unfortunately it appears I’m not quite there yet.

I will say this, though: even if I’m not able to pick apart each individual scent, I really do enjoy the boldness of The Quinta Ruban’s aroma.

The palate

Here is where things start getting ugly, unfortunately. The Quinta Ruban is bottled at 46% alcohol, which means it needs quite a bit of water to open up and be more enjoyable. Not adding enough water results in a very unpleasant burning sensation that dulls your perception of the whisky. Conversely, adding too much water means you’ll end up with a drowned, character-less whisky that won’t tell you much either.

Once you get the right amount of water and swirl it in the glass for a while, The Quinta Ruban is sweet and herbal, which to me seems like an odd combination. In fact, while I drank it I couldn’t stop thinking about medicine. It also feels somewhat chemical, and it reminds me of a cough syrup that’s been made artificially sweet in order to trick you into thinking you’re having something else. I may have an unresolved childhood trauma with cough syrups, because the thought made me quite uneasy about it.

The finish

I’d say it’s long, and thankfully subtle. The weird, sort-of-chemical taste wears off fairly quickly, and the remaining sweetness lingers on for a good while after that. I quite enjoy the aftertaste, to be honest, just not what I have to go through in order to get there.

Perfect for

It’s hard for me to think of a situation to recommend this particular whisky, because I honestly don’t see myself buying a full-sized bottle, and I certainly wouldn’t order it if I had other decent choices.

That said, in my mind wood-finished whiskies like The Quinta Ruban, The Lasanta or The Macallan are inherently classier than others. Their darker hue is a very characteristic trait that I’ve come to associate with sophistication and elegance through the magic of cinema and television — Don Draper, I’m looking at you.

I would then suggest to leave this one for more formal occasions, where it’s not only about enjoying a fine dram, but also looking good while doing it.

A dram for social occasions

Final Words

Like I said, this one’s definitely a mixed bag. While there’s plenty to love here, I’m still unconvinced and I can’t help but think that if I were given the choice between this one and The Original, I would pick The Original every time.

I’m well aware that I haven’t had a whole lot of time to get properly acquainted with it, and I do believe it’s the kind of whisky that gets better with time and continued exposure. However, there are a couple things here I’m not too fond of, such as the herbal touch in combination with its rather overpowering sweetness. These little things will probably keep me from coming back too often to this one. That said, I’m curious to try The Lasanta and The Nectar D’Or, so perhaps I’ll buy the gift set and give it another chance. We’ll see.

In any case, I have no doubts The Quinta Ruban is an excellent single malt, it’s just not up my particular alley. I guess you can’t win every game.

I look forward to my next stop, and I think I’m ready for stronger flavors. Perhaps it’s time to revisit Talisker — I had a first brush with it years ago — or maybe even one of the the more peaty Islay denominations if I’m feeling brave. Until then, happy nosing!

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢
♤ ♧ ♡ ♢
♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Off to work at  →

December 15, 2014 |

Jeremy Foo tells the story of how, after four years of trying, he managed to get a development job at Apple:

The code review was brutal. The author of UITableView eviscerated every decision I made in the design of that piece of work. It was pretty obvious that at that moment, everything was a bust. What I also did realise was also how high the bar was and that I had a lot of work to do.

Great story. I just hope he cleared it with someone at Apple before publishing the article. Otherwise, I don’t imagine they’ll be too happy about those pictures being made public by a new recruit.

Via The Loop.

UPDATE: Since the publication of this entry, Jeremy has deleted the original article.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Hacking The Tweet Stream →

December 15, 2014 |

M.G. Siegler, on the recent trend of embedding a picture of text in a tweet to be able to tweet longer messages:

In the age of Tweetstorms, I thought I would grow to hate this as well. But I actually quite like it. One big reason: it maintains the flow of the tweet stream. That is, it’s one tweet with a payload, so it both flows in and out of the stream just as quickly as a regular tweet. And, more importantly, it can be retweeted (another one of those early Twitter “hacks” that has since become part of the official canon) and replied to without breaking context.

I’m seeing these tweets more and more in my timeline as well. I’m not crazy about it becoming a thing, but I can’t say it bothers me, either.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢