Things that are neither here nor there.

Falafel wrap with chili sauce, lettuce, cucumber, pickled onion, and hummus

We made falafel wraps for lunch today using this falafel recipe from BBC Good Food. It was a decent, simple recipe with a few caveats:

  • The title says “spicy” but there is no heat in it… might actually be good to add some cayenne next time
  • Use the softest canned chickpeas you can find; East End brand is the softest I’ve found in London (and super cheap)
  • Use all of the parsley, stems and all, and chop it super fine
  • Chop the onion very fine, and cook the onion and garlic in olive oil instead of veg oil
  • Add a good pinch of salt (it says “seasoning to taste” but it’s kind of easy to miss that)
  • Half a beaten egg is plenty, any more and it would be way too wet
  • Use two large-ish spoons to ease decently-sized dollops in to the pan since the mixture is too wet to shape in to patties

We had it with pickled red onions (red onions + red wine vinegar + sugar + salt), shredded lettuce, diced cucumber, yogurt, this hummus, and some leftover chili sauce from the best Turkish place in Leyton.

Maybe not quite up to the standard of the guys on Ridley Road Market, but pretty good! To get closer to theirs, we’d need a spicier chili sauce and more tangy pickles.

These blondies are sort of inspired by horchata. I wanted something that was dense and fudge-y, that could be cut small and still be a satisfying treat. A friend said they taste a lot like the gooey centre of a stroopwafel, which is pretty accurate. To get these closer to horchata it might be good to use a lighter sugar, and maybe use pepitas instead of pecans in the topping.


Cinnamon blondies

Preheat the oven to 175C (350F) and line a 20×20cm (8×8″) tray with parchment paper.

In a small pot, gently heat 250 g (1¼ c) light brown sugar, 113 g (½ c, 1 stick) butter, and a pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter) until the sugar is just dissolved. Let cool about 10 minutes.

While the sugar mixture is cooling, in a large bowl blend 95 g (¾ c) plain flour, 45 g (¼ c + 1 T) rice flour, and 2 t cinnamon.

Once the sugar mix has cooled, beat in 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, blending just until incorporated.

Pour in to the prepared tin, then make the topping. In a small bowl, combine a small handful of pecans, crushed in to crumbs, a pinch of flakey sea salt, and a few tablespoons of Demerara sugar. Sprinkle the topping over the batter to cover.

Bake about 30 minutes at 175C (350F) until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean. Let cool mostly in the tin, then transfer to a rack and let cool completely. Cut in to roughly 2.5cm (1″) squares. Good with vanilla ice cream.

I often don’t end up listening to podcasts that are recommended to me. It’s a real shame. I think it’s sometimes hard to know where to start, to find a way in. The next time I get a recommendation, I’ll ask if there’s a specific episode I should try.

Along those lines, here’s a list of a few particular episodes I like. These are in date order, most recent first. Might add more at some point.


Risky Business #535, 20.03.19 — Stop giving Cloudflare money

I’m very interested in information security but definitely an amateur, so most Risky Business episodes go a bit (or entirely) over my head. This episode with host Patrick Gray (AU) and guest Alex Stamos (US) is accessible for less infosec-aware people though. It’s heavy, but very worthy of a listen for anyone influenced by the internet (i.e. everyone).

The major topic is the Christchurch, NZ shootings on the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre where 50 people were killed and 50 more injured by a white supremacist. They focus on the web’s role in the rise of white supremacist communities and propaganda, and what could be done about it. Cloudflare is highlighted as a particularly irresponsible and unsupportable service provider due to the company’s response following the attack. They have refused to pull their services from 8chan, a website that facilitates the spread of white supremacist ideology and the site where the attacker announced his intentions.

Stamos tries to present the difficulties that companies and law enforcement face. Gray understandably gets pretty heated during the discussion, I think initially interpreting Stamos’s comments as an excuse for the inaction of companies like Cloudflare (though I don’t think they were). Ultimately though they seemed to be in agreement. Towards the end of their discussion, around 40:51, Stamos summarises: “We’re going to have to start to treat white nationalists like the Islamic State was treated. To the point that if you’re on 8chan and you’re talking about an attack, you’re actually feeling that there’s some kind of risk, that somebody’s gonna bust your door down. That’s where we got to with the Islamic State. […] We’ve got to get to that same place, but [Cloudflare and other organisations] can make that hard for non-US law enforcement.” He is saying that white nationalist groups need to be classified as potential terrorist organisations so that there is a legal framework forcing companies to adopt stronger policies instead of just hoping they’ll do the right thing. It’s a very good point.

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BBC Earth Podcast 27.12.18 — Hide and Seek

I’ve never finished an episode of BBC Earth… but that’s why I like it. It’s the perfect podcast to fall asleep to if you’re having trouble drifting off. Interesting – but not *too* riveting – facts and stories about nature told by presenter/producer Emily Knight and guests. And great jungle sounds. I’ve put this particular episode on here because I really liked the wildlife calls while they were explaining how to track tigers. Can’t really say much about what happened after that though, I was asleep.

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Darknet Diaries #27, 01.12.18 — Chartbreakers

The tagline for Darknet Diaries is “True stories from the dark side of the Internet”. This episode is a little different, investigating something ongoing rather than covering something that has already occurred. Host Jack Rhysider tries to figure out why shady podcasts with zero reviews or subscribers regularly climb the Top Charts on Apple Podcasts. In doing so, he finds out that it involves dubious promotional activity, and it isn’t just the little guys doing it. He also finds out this isn’t a web-only problem, that a similar thing has happened multiple times with the New York Times Bestsellers list and could still be happening. It’s yet another wakeup call that we should be suspicious of algorithms, particularly those that are meant to be infallibly meritocratic. Rhysider ends the episode by saying that he hopes his listeners recommend the podcast to their friends since he puts no faith in likes or reviews. It made me think about how much I like receiving recommendations from people I care about, and kind of became the catalyst for this list.

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Roderick on the Line #300, 13.08.18 — The Airplane Doesn’t Care

One of Merlin Mann and John Roderick’s weekly Skype calls. Their conversations go all over the place, this one is no different. They always touch a bit on philosophy and mental health, but it’s more prominent in this episode due to a then-recent event. On Saturday 11.08.18, 29-year-old Richard Russell stole an empty turboprop from SeaTac airport, performed difficult stunts with basically no training, and then committed suicide by deliberately crashing in to a small island in Puget Sound (more here). One of those things that made me laugh and cry.

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Syntax #29, 24.01.18 — Hosting & Servers

Wes Bos and Scott Tolinski dive in to hosting. It’s a great primer on a lot of the options out there at the moment, even if you consider yourself relatively familiar with these things. It’s all about the way they walk through it, from Squarespace to Docker, including personal experiences, pitfalls, and use cases.

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Ear Hustle #2, 28.06.17 — Misguided Loyalty

Ear Hustle, stories of life inside prison, is presented by visual artist Nigel Poor and former San Quentin inmate Earlonne Woods. I had no idea which Ear Hustle episode to choose, every one is a jewel. This early episode is about gangs; the pressure, the violence, and the repercussions.

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Adam Buxton Podcast #37 and #38, 06.04.17 — Brian Eno

Adam Buxton having a chat in two parts with Brian Eno. Not much more to say.

Micheal Butterworth kindly brought a bunch of original copies of New Worlds and Corridor to a recent Corridor8 meeting in Wakefield. It was a pleasure to thumb through them, particularly as Hannah Nussbaum gave us a peek in to her research on Micheal’s body of work and the roots of Corridor8.

The images here are illustrated titles from the October 1967 issue of New Worlds edited by Micheal Moorcock.

Turns out vitamin D is pretty important for your immune system. I knew this in a sort of back-of-the-mind way, but I didn’t realise quite how important until a recent doctor visit and blood test. I seem to be deficient by nearly every standard out there. I’ve battled three separate health issues since moving to the UK from California in 2010, all of them nonexistent before the move. I’m now taking quite a lot of vitamin D3 as advised and am thrilled to see real improvement for the first time. Fingers-crossed that the improvement continues.

If vitamin D deficiency is a potential contributor to a wide range of health issues, as a lot of studies seem to show, why isn’t routine screening a thing? Couldn’t it reduce strain on the healthcare system as a whole?

Basically, I’m pretty salty about not finding out sooner. I’ve had so many tests done over the past nine years to try and figure this out, but vitamin D levels were never one of the components. I suspected vitamin D might be a problem early on (seems like a no-brainer, there’s a big difference in sunlight between CA and LDN). But I asked a doctor about it in 2012 and he dismissed my concern. I didn’t press it until recently when everything took a nosedive and I finally saw a doctor that gets it.

So much stress and discomfort potentially caused by something so simple. Time will tell, should take about 7 weeks to get levels near normal. Onward and upward!

And time to go on some sunny holidays. ☀️

Might be at a turning point in my career. A lot of my friends are expressing similar feelings. I think it has something to do with working for nearly 10 years.

This frame of mind has made me really interested in manifestos. Not anything strident really, more purpose-driven lists that can help guide everyday decision-making. Here are a few manifesto-y links I’ve identified with recently.

  • These things I believe from “Not the user’s fault”. I think this is Jono Xia’s blog from when he was part of the Mozilla Labs team. I’ve tried to find him elsewhere on the web but haven’t found him anywhere so far. He raises some really good points about software design and development.
  • The Recurse Center’s Social Rules. Such a good, concise set of guidelines for public discourse. “No well-actually’s, no feigned surprise, no backseat driving, no subtle -isms”.
  • Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules. Also available as a free tear-away poster at the Corita Kent: Power Up exhibition (8 Feb – 12 May 2019) at the House of Illustration.
  • GitLab’s Remote Manifesto. SB and I try to implement a lot of this, though we’re definitely not strict enough about it! We also strive to work this way with clients and collaborators, even those that live in London. Face-to-face IRL meetings are great, but it can be tough to squeeze them in when it takes an hour to get anywhere in this city.
  • Daniel Eatock’s manifesto, particularly “propose honesty as a solution”. See also the Scratching the Surface episode with Daniel Eatock from last September. Off the back of the Corita Kent exhibition, SB and I were talking about the lack of irony and cynicism in her work, about how refreshing that feels even though a lot of it is from over 50 years ago. He mentioned this podcast episode, that Eatock touches on this topic in relation to his kids, how kids just don’t perceive irony. I need to have a listen.

I’ll try to add more here as I come across them. Who knows, maybe I’ll add my own some day.

I loved making friendship bracelets as a kid. Time for a revival.

There’s something wonderfully sincere about them. Receiving one is a delight, who doesn’t want a small physical thing that ties you to another actual person in this world, that has taken time and care. It’s a little talisman of someone’s consideration for you. And it’s a joy to make the bracelet. They take almost no time, can be as complicated as simple as you feel you’re up for in that moment. The knotting is rhythmic, takes the mind somewhere else.

The most recent one I made was a thin black braid with a tiny shell from a holiday. That stayed on my wrist for a few months – sure I can make myself friendship bracelets, self care is the bees knees. I smashed the shell in to a thousand million pieces when I tried to kill a bug on the kitchen table (that’s what you get for mindless violence).