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Dec. 21st, 2013

Coffee

You do occasionally visit Boston Public Library, yes?
If not, get on it! You were raised in and on libraries. They are in your blood!

You called me out rightly on that one! I’ve never actually been inside the BPL
– it’s on the Green line, the cantankerous part of the subway — and I just
haven’t been out there. Somerville’s is pretty limited — not nearly as big as
Englewood’s library, and it’s got a selection that’s definitely not aimed at
me.

I just saw the Arlington library night before last, actually, and it’s this big
huge modern building, it reminds me of the Koelbel library we used to go to.
It’s the first one I’ve been so excited to try to go to in a while.

It’s funny that you bring this up right now. I’ve been reading article after
article for the last year, but especially in the last weeks by librarians and
book publishers and authors talking about what the role of libraries are in a
world where it’s relatively easy to get ahold of the actual text anywhere and
anywhen.

There’s a whole argument that libraries are obsolete; a lot of this came out of
the crazy world of the California tech scene, where there’s this huge
Libertarian ‘government is evil, technology will solve all our woes’ thinking,
but that tends to assume that everyone is on average white, male, and upper
middle class. They’ve got a point, though, that for pure access to thought and
information, the Internet has done something unprecedented.

But libraries serve a few other purposes that e-books and the Internet can’t solve.
So many of my queer friends pointed out that that libraries were their refuge as
kids and teenagers, from a world that was pretty intent on being horrible to them.
Often they come from families that were more than borderline abusive, and the
library was their safe place. There’s a whole generation of us for whom that rings
true, and kids coming of age now less often say that — but there’s never been
anything to replace that need for them.

Libraries are one of the few first-class public service, one of the few that
historically has ignored what economic class you’re from and has just provided
a service to everyone. That’s starting to change in some ways — inner city
libraries are starting to think of themselves as intervention points for kids
who won’t have access to reading before school, for poor families who can’t
cross that ‘digital divide’ and get on the Internet, they’re buying computers
and setting up more and more space for non-book-oriented services. They’re
focusing on the poor around them and abandoning the universal service model.

(I read a great quote today — “In Europe, public services are for everyone. In
the US, public services are for the poor who can’t afford a private
alternative” — and libraries are one of the few services where that’s not been
true.)

I’ve never been too keen on the model of librarians-as-authorities to appeal to
for information, but even so, having someone who knows the information out
there and can guide you is super important — it’s the role teachers really
should play, but don’t.

There’s a lot of thoughts on this rattling around in my brain trying to escape
coherently, but nothing’s made it out beyond this yet, and certainly not me
figuring out how I fit into it yet. Libraries are in my blood, but I’m not sure
if the thing I’m after is there, or if it’s something more abstract that I’m
chasing.

Anyway just wish we could be sharing another book together.

I’d like that, a lot. I think that’s one thing that’s been lost in the mostly
fast-paced tech words world is sharing thoughts about a big piece of writing. I
comment on blogs and articles, and discuss on Twitter a lot, but books don’t
have the convenient handles where you can just link to them and highlight
something and say “THIS is what’s right about this”. I want to share some of
those things and it’s not happening as much as it used to. I miss sharing them
with you!

Aria

Mirrored from All Confirmation Bias, All The Time.

Jul. 17th, 2013

Coffee
 "I had never been in a room of people who were going to say 'yes' to me before."
 
My friend and I crammed into a rush hour crowded train out of Kendall station and rode together the entire way home, to my surprise realization, it was the first time we'd actually made the entire trip together.
 
We talked about how we'd started in theater -- he'd been in plays as a kid, and in middle school, moved on to directing them. I'd been in choir, and since we shared space and directors with the theater company, and the accompanist was his producer, and one of the altos was a set painter, and really, most of the theater crowd had been encouraged to join the remainder of the amorphous mass of performing arts that went on there, there was a fantastic overlap.
 
I lived a block from the theater, or maybe it could be said that I slept a block from the theater, but the hundred year old building with its creaky floor and old wooden flip-down seating and hard, perfect plaster walls was my home.
 
The roof leaked, though mostly in the dressing room, and in the winter it cost a spectacular sum to heat, since the foundation was stone, the walls were old, and the front was single layer brick and stone.
 
We were lucky, though, to have no neighbors, no residences to disturb with our sometimes late-night caterwauling, practicing a scene until midnight or even my late-night forays into the piano, escaping my bed and my house and using my one prized posesssion, the key to the theater to play on the Yamaha grand piano in the dark.

We produced six plays a year with a cast of sixteen, a crew of three, a director who looked like Zero Mostel with a booming voice and insistent, instatiable positivity, and a mousy producer and accompanist with a giant mane of tight curls between an extra, extra-large hat and a pair of paint-splattered overalls, whose goal in life was to become a famous, blind, black, male Jazz pianist.
 
We had a hundred and fifty square foot stage with no fly space, no wings, and only a door the size of your average household front door as an entrance. There were four lights, a ceiling fan, and two long throw lights on rickety stands in the audience that had just enough power to not be glorified flashlights, and to have lightbulbs that cost more than most of my computer equipment.
 
The acoustics, however, were perfect. A whisper on stage was audible in the audience. The choir's singing reverberated from the walls, not echoing but self supporting until we sounded like we were twice the size.
 
The old fashioned bar was outfitted with soft drinks, and when nobody in positions of authority were around, bottles of wine that we didn't exactly charge money for and therefore didn't quite need a license for if you squinted at the rules just right.
 
Every Tuesday was improv night. Officially, it was two hours, but most often more like four, since nobody wanted to leave and those with kids would invariably call partners and demand that they take care of the evening routine because there was Just That Much Good Stuff Going On. Sometimes we read plays, acting from script until someone found something to run with. Sometimes one of the games would start us off, first silly saying what ever came to mind, then coming together in a sort of magic that can't quite be explained except that that is what happens when sixteen people start thinking together. The empty theater became a forest, a pith helmet that a kid had pulled out of the costume room that morning became the inspiration for a Grand Expedition to Hunt Elephants in the Jungles of Peru, and it became Peru because someone said so, and yes, by gum, we were going there. A cane was provisioned as a rifle, and we took to scouting for Wild Animals because That Is What One Does.
 
The herd of elephants was a couple actors moving the strings of wooden benches around, and the chase ended up running straight out the back door until we ended up in a heap of giggles in the parking lot behind the building.
 
By the time we got to Harvard Station, we'd started to compare the list of plays we'd started, finished, or mangled irreparably. The complete work of David Ives, most of Christopher Durang between us. Sartre, Tom Stoppard, A. R. Gurney, Rogers and Hammerstein, and it was only the din of the train signals kept us from bursting out into the Modern Major General's song during a rush-hour commute.
 
We parted ways at Davis station and it occurred to me that I learned more about how to get other people to do things in those wild nights in the theater than I have anywhere else.
 
It's amazing what happens when you say 'Yes' to them.

Recipe: Storm in the Garden

Coffee

Recipe: Storm in the Garden

Ingredients

  • 10 ml lavender vodka
  • 10 ml orange vodka
  • 10 ml hibiscus vodka
  • 200 ml ginger ale
  • ice

Instructions

  1. Drop the ice in a pint glass, pour in the ginger ale. Add the vodkas layered gently on top, ending with the bright red hibiscus.

Preparation time: 2 minute(s)

Cooking time:

Number of servings (yield): 1

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Mirrored from All Confirmation Bias, All The Time.

Summer Sangría

Coffee
500 ml rosé wine, or even white zinfandel.
300 ml red wine, not too dry -- Fiore Strada's tempranillo is awesome.
50 g sugar or 10 g splenda
5 chopped strawberries, as ripe as you can get them, or 2 small or 1 large nectarines or peaches.
80 ml of orange flavored vodka or 40 ml of triple sec
5 ml orange flower water.

Put it all together and shake in a sealed container. Let it sit a few hours in the refrigerator if you can and enjoy.

Mar. 31st, 2013

Coffee
When vacant Blitz-bombed lots were still a thing: tiny wildflowers.@GreatDismal


I was thinking this morning about how many great moments slip through the cracks, cracks in horrors and tragedies like the London Blitz, cracks in our own attention, moments that go unnoticed, the little changes leading up to a change in season.

@GreatDismal flowers growing on slate roofs overrun with moss. And our of the cracks in a stone wall 300+ years old@strixus


Even the replies go there. Cracks. Things pushing up where we imagine they have no business.

I sometimes write about a fictional world that doesn't have a lot of room for cracks, metaphorical or otherwise. What would your life be like without any cracks?

Some thoughts on configuring web servers

Coffee

If there’s one thing that has always made me annoyed running a web hosting and services business it was the low level details of configuring virtual hosts in Apache and every other web server on the planet.

It’s all scriptable, but it’s error prone and completely graceless.

Users want to be able to define their own rules.

Apache configuration syntax, when included, can break the entire configuration. It’s not dynamic. Reloads in a hot web server can be expensive.

Ngingx and Lighttpd are marginally more consistent, but still stink at delegating.

Configurations are sometimes order-dependent, sometimes evaluated root to leaf node, sometimes leaf node to root, and sometimes require recursing into the request handler to make decisions based on on “what if” scenarios.

I’d willingly trade a lot of power in configuring a web server for something simple and able to be delegated to users.

There are some basic requirements:

  • Ability to configure redirects (and custom responses) for specific URLs and for entire subtrees of URL space. (I’m of the opinion that this should often not be handled at the application layer, since it’s most often needed to deal with changes to URL structure during application upgrades and transitions.)
  • Ability to map URLs to handlers located within the document root, without exposing the filenames of those handlers. (Thank you, PHP, for moving us backward 5 years in URL structure in an effort to teach us how simple deployment should be.)
  • The ability to direct entire subtrees to a handler.
  • The ability to direct entire subtrees to a handler if the request is not satisfiable with a url-to-path mapping.
  • The ability to direct requests to a handler if url-to-path mapping yields a file with a particular suffix (or perhaps indirectly via MIME type)
  • The ability to tweak url-to-path mapping if url-to-path mapping yields a directory.
  • The ability to add a variable passed on to a handler at any point in the subtrees of URL space, including setting it to a value from any part of the request headers, including a fragment of the URL.

And operationally, I want to be able to delegate the configuration of entire virtual hosts and preferably also subtrees of URL space to users, and have them only able to break the parts delegated to them.

Mirrored from All Confirmation Bias, All The Time.

1944 Red Velvet (cup) Cake

Coffee

This is a red velvet cake made in a WW2 era way, using beets for moisture and color. The trick to getting good color rather than mud is to keep the batter acidic: lemon and buttermilk and a complete lack of alkaline leavening are what make this recipe unusual.

Boil two medium beets and puree. (You need one cup)

Cream two sticks of butter with a cup of sugar. Beat in two eggs as completely as you can.

Mix two tablespoons of lemon juice with 3/4 cup buttermilk. Add a cup of the beet puree.

In a bowl, mix a cup of flour and a quarter cup of natural (non-Dutch process) cocoa powder. (I used Hershey’s).

Beat the three mixtures together, adding some of the butter, egg and sugar mixture alternating with some of the beet and buttermilk mixture.

Pour into greased cupcake pans and bake at 350 until a toothpick or straw comes out clean.

This will be a soft, moist cake, almost custard. It released from the pan easily for me, though my cupcake pans are cast iron and a little unusual.

I used most of my batter as a layer under a cheesecake, but that’s a story for another time.

Mirrored from All Confirmation Bias, All The Time.

Oct. 22nd, 2012

Coffee

Cayenne and Sweet Onion Hot Sauce

8 large (15 cm, 8 in) ripe red cayenne peppers, roasted over a flame (or in an oven)
3 medium onions, baked in their skins at 120 °C (250 °F) for 1 hour.
40 g brown sugar (5 tsp)
25 ml apple cider vinegar
a splash of orange juice or a little zest
a little salt

Scrape the blackened skin from the cayennes, though be careful not to lose too much flesh. Strip away seeds and cords if you want to tame the heat a bit.

Peel the onions, leaving only the browned flesh.

Run the whole pile through the food processor.

If you want to preserve for a longer term, add 2g citric acid, and omit the orange juice.

Cephalapod Surprise Chowder

Coffee
Chop four slices of bacon and start cooking them over medium heat.

Chop one small onion, three small carrots, two sticks of celery.

Add them to the cooking bacon, with the fat.

Let them cook until the onions start to go transparent.

Add a cup or two of beer.

Add 3 or 4 fingerling potatoes, cut into small bite sized pieces.

Add water to cover and let this simmer until the potatoes are soft.

Chop four or five small squid into half-inch square pieces. Tentacles can be left in larger pieces.

Put these in a pan with a few tablespoons of melted butter. Cook briefly until the squid firms. (Ten or fifteen seconds, thirty at most.)

Add the squid to the simmering potato mixture.

Add a cup or two of small scallops, and a cup of small shrimp.

Cook a roux, equal parts butter and flour until the flour is golden-brown.

Add it to the simmering mixture and whisk to combine, and remove the heat.

Add 3/4 cup of heavy cream, or 1 1/2 cups of half and half.

Let stand for a bit, and serve.

Season with salt and pepper, and add a quarter cup of chopped fresh dill.

Simmer until warmed through again. Don't let the scallops overcook.

Let cool slightly