Or something a little like it.

Not sure I’ve ever had tagine; if so it was decades ago, in Boulder or Denver.

For a weird coincidence of reasons, I got interest in making something of that sort. One reason was that, from reading about it (the essence being the clay cooking pot with the peaked lid, and the steam recirculating and condensing) it sounded like it would work well in an Instant-pot. Another was that the list of ingredients and seasonings sounded very hopeful. (I’m not familiar with a large range of meat-plus-sweet dishes, but I’ve invented one, and liked many of the ones I’ve had.)

For various reasons (not including what was in the freezer; I had both) I made it with pork rather than chicken. That’s either wrong or unusual for a tagine, if my sources are right, perhaps more common in Morocco? Anyway, it seemed like it would taste good.

As one does, I reviewed multiple recipes online in a cumulative half hour or something, over a couple of days, and came up with a rough idea of what I was going to do.

Made it today, and Lydy and I thought it was quite successful. I’d say it was under-seasoned, but the balance of the seasonings was about right.

So, here’s a reasonably accurate description of what I made:


2 Tbs. olive oil

1 lb boneless pork, thawed and cut into good-size chunks

1 small potato, cubed

1 medium onion, chopped

An inch or 2 of ginger root, minced

4 or so cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 c. dried apricots, chopped

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. hot pepper mix (wasn’t, very)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup beef broth

1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz)

Dry rice


Set your Instant-pot on saute.

Put the oil in the pot and heat it. Add the pork and stir to brown.

Add the onion, garlic, potato, ginger, apricots, and seasonings and get them at least a bit browned.

Add the tomatoes and beef broth, and stir to mix.

Seal the pot and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Then release pressure “naturally” (i.e. slowly). (Note that, with heating to pressure, and pressure release, the elapsed time from when you seal the pot is about an hour.)

Meanwhile, cook some rice (I used brown rice).


Serve over rice. I served this with boiled spinach, which went very well with it.

This ended up serving 2 people plus 3 leftovers (we always seem to eat more the first night).


There were supposed to be carrots, and chickpeas. I’m not sure about the chickpeas, but using them instead of the potato would be more traditional.

Other recipes had sweet potatoes. Sweet instead of regular potatoes might work well with chickpeas.

I think there should be more apricots, and more seasonings in general. For the seasonings, maybe 2x as much even (except salt and perhaps cinnamon).

Some recipes suggested adding honey as a quick way to adjust the sweetness balance, and that might have been good.

This would probably work fine with frozen meat. It’d need to cook longer, though, and you’d probably end up shredding it instead of cubing it (after cooking). I think I like it better in cubes.

Many aspects of this may be extremely variant from actual tagine! And I was not, this time, trying to figure out and enact “authentic”, I was trying for something of roughly this style that we liked. From that viewpoint this was a success.

Unexpected Complexity of Using Film for Wedding Photos

Well, not unexpected if you ever did it, or know anybody who did it. But quick searches don’t find any discussion of it online, including in modern blogs by people who say they shoot weddings on film all the time.

I’m sure the exact details varied by photographer; in fact they would have had to, to take full advantage of their equipment. My knowledge comes from the late 60s and early 70s, mostly (I knew people doing weddings professionally then). Anybody serious used medium format, Hasselblad if they could possibly afford it (one friend started with a pair of Mamiya 124Gs, and upgraded to Hasselblads while I knew him; I bought one of his Mamiyas).

There are a few photos you just absolutely had to get. Specific portraits and group shots, the ring exchange, kissing the bride, feeding each other cake, the first dance; things like that. Of course you wanted good shots of all of those, and you wanted lots of other good shots as well, but if you didn’t manage to get those basic shots, it was going down on your permanent karmic record. No five star ratings for you!

There are two big areas where film was more uncertain while shooting the wedding, and the complex scheme I’m going to describe was carefully designed to protect you so far as possible from both of them.

First of all, you didn’t know if your camera was actually working. You could tell if the flash went off, and you could tell if it made the right noises, but that level of observation wouldn’t detect most problems below “camera is locked up”. You couldn’t, of course, just check the images on the LCD on the back!

Second, when you sent your film to the lab, you didn’t know whether they were going to screw it up. All the film sent in at once was very likely to go into the machine all at once, and if the chemistry was borked that afternoon, too bad!

What to do?

Well, what you do is exactly what you do for pretty much every problem of unpredictable failure. You employ redundancy!

Specifically, you make sure that you take each absolutely necessary shot multiple times, using different cameras and on different rolls of film. And you then carefully manage the rolls of film to be sure they don’t all go to the lab in the same batch.

In fact, you need four copies to be really sure, you might have one bad camera and the lab ruins a batch, so you need two copies on different rolls from each camera to be really safe. This is much easier if your cameras have interchangeable film backs (one more reason Hasselblad dominated wedding photography for so long).

I suspect people used their own made-up terminology, but I learned this as “A rolls” and “B rolls”, and the rule was that A rolls went to the lab in a different batch, on a different day, from B rolls, so they couldn’t both be ruined in the same accident. Similarly with an “A camera” and a “B camera” (no doubt some high-end wedding photographers, especially those using a second shooter, had more than two cameras, but 2 Hasselblads with some duplicate lenses and flashes was a stretch for most photographers).

So you had to keep track, in your head or on paper, of which of the required shots you had in AA, AB, BA, and BB forms. And the rest of the time, you needed to use both cameras a lot, not just using one and having a backup.

While at the same time doing your actual job as a photographer superbly; this added complexity saves you from some lab and camera failures, but doesn’t protect you from your own errors.

Most of the time, that’ll give you 4 versions of the key pictures to pick the best from, which is nice. But what’s vital is to protect yourself from having no versions of one of the key pictures.

I do hope the people shooting weddings on film today remember this. I can’t believe that labs are so much more reliable today that lab failure is now off the table, and the film cameras are decades older which isn’t likely to make them more reliable either.

Useless Film Developing Trivia

I would occasionally, back in the day, require extremely fast film. I encountered a recommendation for processing TRI-X exposed at EI 4000, tried it, and found that it produced very useful results. (Contrast was high, shadow-detail was low, but grain was startling small, and if properly exposed it lead to a very satisfying rendition of the scene for late-night convention parties and music sessions. The film had a strong curl, and a high level of base fog.)

I just ran across a pointer to the details of the process, which I hadn’t quite remembered, and a citation to where it originally from. I don’t expect to ever use it again (though the materials are still available!), but I’ve been unhappy not remembering the details, so I’m documenting them here, as well as where a re-discovered them.

Michael G. Slack (in Darkroom Photography, July/August 1979, p. 13) reports pushing Kodak Tri-X Pan to EI 4000 (with extreme contrast increase) by developing for 5 minutes at 75 F in HC-110 replenisher diluted 1:15 (like Dilution A, but starting with replenisher rather than syrup).

Michael Covington, https://www.covingtoninnovations.com/hc110/

A Few Confusing Photo Terms

Photography has been around for quite a while at this point, since perhaps 1835 (images had been recorded photo-chemically before that). Recently, we’ve undergone major upheavals as the commonly-used photographic technology changed from chemical to digital.

The accumulated terminology from this time, and from related fields, ends up being something of a mess.


When newspapers and magazines started using photos, the people who chose the photos were fairly quickly labeled as “editors”, in parallel with the people who chose the stories to be published.

When photography went digital, the computer term “editor,” for a program used to change text documents (including computer programs) was borrowed for programs that manipulated digital images, like Adobe Photoshop.

So now, “editing” photos can refer either to choosing photos from a set to use for some purpose, or to adjusting the appearance of photos while getting them ready for use.


With daguerrotypes, the original material from the camera was exhibited (after processing), but most other chemical photographic methods produced a negative image, and an additional processing step was needed to produce a positive image for display. This also made it possible to produce multiple display images from the same photograph. Later, methods of enlarging from the negative to produce larger positive prints were invented (and better negative materials, so that the images could tolerate being enlarged).

So, a “print” was a positive copy of the original negative photo, or as a verb, the act of producing such copies.

Photographs were also widely used in publications, where “printing” meant using printing presses to produce many copies of the publication.

Today, many more photographs are looked at electronically than as physical prints, but sometimes, for lack of other terminology, photographers, especially old-school ones like me that still remember using a darkroom, might use “printing” to describe the process of manipulating a digital image file to get it to the form I want to present. (The other obvious terms are “edit”, see above, and “manipulate”, which suggests rather too strongly changing the photo to show things other than as they actually appeared.)

“Digital printing” is sometimes used (in contrast to “darkroom printing”) to emphasize that computer tools are being used.

Ansel Adams is frequently quoted saying something like “The negative is the score; the print is the performance” (Adams initially trained as a pianist). In an interview by David Sheff published in Playboy magazine (1-May-1983), on page 226, Adams actually said “Yes, in the sense that the negative is like the composer’s score. Then, using that musical analogy, the print is the performance.” Less pithy, but about the same meaning.

Particularly when talking about making prints for exhibition, there is a large range of things that a first-rate printer will consider doing. These fall in the general categories of color adjustments, density and contrast adjustments, and local adjustments (of those types, but applied to only parts of the photo).

We are sadly lacking any commonly-understood term for preparing the best version of an image.


In the darkroom days, “photo manipulation” meant changing a photo to show things other than as they actually were. As with movie special effects, the purpose was to entertain, usually (of course on some occasions people also altered photos as part of frauds; the Soviet Union was famous for editing people out of historical photos as they gradually became unpopular).

Greater changes were possible in the darkroom than many people today understand, especially if you used advanced techniques like dye-transfer printing. Commercial portrait studios routinely did major retouching to the faces in the photos of their clients even in black-and-white, and of course Hollywood publicity photos took that to whole new levels.

However, today, using digital tools like Photoshop, any 10-year-old with a little experience can accomplish those same effects, in less time.

The distinction between “printing” a photo and “manipulating” it was clear to most people (especially to people who never did actually manipulate photos; the line is fuzzier than one might think, and of course simply choosing camera position, direction you’re looking, and exact moment of exposure already hugely abstracts the complexity of reality into the clarity of your photograph). But taking a mole off a person’s face in a portrait, or smoothing down creases and lines, were common, nobody thought of them as unusual in commercial portraiture (most amateurs didn’t take the time to learn how to do such things).

Anyway, many of us aren’t comfortable using the term “manipulation” for ordinary preparation of a photo for display that doesn’t alter the scene shown.

“Retouching” is often used for small adjustments that aren’t thought of as changing the photo significantly, especially cleaning up people’s faces.

Lensman Universe Drop Shafts

There’s an interesting worldbuilding detail in Edward E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series. They’ve got this technology of “inertialessness”, which is what allows them to go faster than light, but it also has domestic uses—elevators have been replaced by open drop shafts that you fall down, inertialess, very quickly and completely safely (because “inertialess collisions cannot even be felt”). (He doesn’t say how the UP shafts work, but I’m guessing artificial gravity pointing up, since they have artificial gravity in other contexts.)

I’m not going to try to explain “inertialessness”. He’s fairly specific about how it behaves, and of course it’s not how the real universe behaves. But he’s pretty good about having the defined behavior remain consistent and control what can and can’t be done in various situations.

Most of the information on drop shafts is in two books, the actual first book and the second later prequel. (No, I don’t really expect that to make sense to anybody not already familiar with the series. But I don’t expect this article to be of any interest to people not already familiar with the series, either.)

I don’t think Smith ever actually calls them “drop shafts”, that’s a later term used in the field, but just “shaft” is rather too broad so I’m using the later term. Also I’m applying it to the ones going UP as well as those going DOWN.

Samms cut off; and, after a brief exchange of thought with Kinnison, went out into the hall and along it to the “DOWN” shaft. There going free, he stepped through a doorless, unguarded archway into over a thousand feet of air. Although it was long after conventional office hours the shaft was still fairly busy, but that made no difference—inertialess collisions cannot even be felt. He bulleted downward to the sixth floor, where he brought himself to an instantaneous halt.

First Lensman, chapter 4

So; we know there are separate “DOWN” and “UP” shafts. We know that there is no door or other guard across the archway to the shaft, which is over 1000 feet tall. We know that when Samms reaches his destination (the 6th floor) he brings himself to an instantaneous halt.

Clearly this shaft is not regarded as any danger to anybody; it has no door, no guards of any kind. (Presumably the safety issues are things like backup power for the Bergenholm that keeps the interior of the shaft inertialess, which are not visible in descriptions of using the shafts. Plus making sure the Bergenholm field and the gravity don’t reach outside the shaft.)

I’m a little unclear about the phrase “There going free”. That seems to suggests that it’s something Samms does, rather than something that happens to anybody who steps through that archway. It could be that everybody wears portable neutralizers (as Lensmen do in their armor, as described multiple places in Galactic Patrol), but it seems to me unwise to count on people not walking into the shaft without their neutralizer, plus there could be issues with people panicking and failing to turn theirs on. Also, this scene can’t be that long after Civilization first gets the Bergenholm working at all; it’s still a new technology in this scene (no precise time since the Nevian incident is given, but as I read the text a few years seems like a reasonable estimate).

It seems like the failure possibilities would be far fewer if inertia is neutralized within the shaft by mechanisms in the building, rather than by something each user has to carry and control. The phrase bothering me isn’t utterly incompatible with that, I don’t think.

Now, how fast would people be moving in these shafts? The DOWN shaft could simply work by gravity; in the free state, any object instantaneously acquires the speed that balances the forces on it against the resistance it encounters (air resistance in the shaft in this case).

The next paragraph of the book has another useful tidbit. It says “skirts went out, as office dress, when up-and-down open-shaft velocities of a hundred or so miles per hour replaced elevators”. That gives us a rough minimum speed of 100 miles per hour, and tells us the up and down shafts run at about the same speeds. (There’s a nasty question here. Is the air in the shaft free? If so, does it not resist the falling bodies at all? If that is the case at what velocity do the bodies then fall? But clearly, the air molecules push dresses around, so they’re not free, for whatever reason, so the velocity is limited. But in that case, hair as well as skirts should be subjected to 100 mile per hour winds, so styles there might also change.)

That’s in the ballpark for the terminal velocity of a human falling through atmosphere, which ought to be the speed that a free human in a 1 gee field in normal atmosphere would instantly achieve.

Now, I’m not clear how reliably I could spot the 6th floor coming a few feet from my face when I was moving at 100 miles per hour, or how reliably I could grab something to brake myself at just the right moment. But if there are many vertical rails around the edges of the shaft, say, one could grab one early and slow without stopping by gripping it lightly.

The UP shaft can’t of course work by gravity. I would argue that it would be highly advantageous for it to have the same upward force on users that the DOWN shaft has downward force, since otherwise you’d have to develop different sets of habits for the up and down shafts, which seems undesirable. (Not a safety issue though; if the space inside the shaft is all free, there’s nothing any user can do to cause accidental injury in the shaft. It might be embarrassing to miss your floor and end up at the bottom, but it won’t injure you or anyone else). So, since we know they have artificial gravity, let’s presume that the UP shaft has a 1 gee upward force, or at least that it matches the downward force in the DOWN shaft.

There’s some more information in Galactic Patrol. There’s a detailed description of the graduating class of Lensmen marching into the shaft and hitting bottom precisely on a beat of the march and continuing to march out of the shaft.

In perfect alignment and cadence the little column marched down the hall. In their path yawned the shaft—a vertical pit some twenty feet square extending from main floor to roof of the Hall, more than a thousand sheer feet of unobstructed air, cleared now of all traffic by flaring red lights. Five left heels clicked sharply, simultaneously upon the lip of the stupendous abyss. Five right legs swept out into emptiness. Five right hands snapped to belts and five bodies, rigidly erect, arrowed downward at such an appalling velocity that to unpractised vision they simply vanished.

Six-tenths of a second later, precisely upon a beat of the stirring march, those ten heels struck the main floor of Wentworth Hall, but not with a click. Dropping with a velocity of almost two thousand feet per second though they were at the instant of impact, yet those five husky bodies came from full speed to an instantaneous, shockless, effortless halt at contact, for the drop had been made under complete neutralization of inertia—“free,” in space parlance. Inertia restored, the march was resumed—or rather continued—in perfect time with the band.

Galactic Patrol, chapter 1

(2000 feet per second is 1364 miles per hour.)

This, of course, is not ordinary civilian use of the drop shaft. Note that for this ceremony it was cleared of all other traffic.

The detail of the cadets’ right hands snapping to their belts is interesting. Is that supposed to indicate they are manipulating some control that relates to the shaft? Of course, since this is not the ordinary use of that shaft, they may be doing something special that isn’t part of normal use.

We don’t know how long after First Lensman this book is set, but probably hundreds of years, so the “normal” configuration of drop shafts may well be different now than it was back then.

Either the artificial gravity in the shaft is set to a much higher setting than 1 gee for this ceremony, or perhaps the cadets are using thrusters or something to force themselves down, triggering them with their right hands at their belts. Maybe they are using thrusters to force themselves down because the DOWN shaft doesn’t have artificial gravity, only the UP shaft?

At least they don’t have to see their floor coming and stop themselves, since they’re going to the bottom. Even Lensmen might have trouble reacting fast enough to something going over 1000 miles per hour just a few feet from their face!

As usual, when one keeps poking at world-building, little issues turn up here and there.