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Current listening: “Playing Piano for Dad” by h hunt

Currently listening to the album Playing Piano for Dad (2016) by h hunt. Thanks to BL for the rec, by way of SB. It’s all about the piano, but I also like the occasional background talking, bits of humming, snaps, throat clearing, restarts, sighs, hearing the pedals. It’s an antidote to the franticness of the news cycle this October.

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Now online: Open-weather

Screenshot of the Open-weather website showing a storm over Japan

open-weather.community

The Open-weather website is online. A bit about Open-weather:

Open-weather is a project by Sophie Dyer and Sasha Engelmann probing the noisy relationships between bodies, atmospheres and weather systems through experiments in amateur radio, open data and feminist tactics of sensing and séance.

The site is pretty straightforward, a static hub for a bunch of resources hosted in various places including their PublicLab wiki and archive of amateur radio-generated weather data. The homepage is currently a large scrollable nowcast produced in collaboration by people across the globe. We decided to embed the Google Sheet archive directly in the site for now, though that may change in the future. We may do the same for pages such as methodology, to come later on. We’ll see!

The site is hosted on Netlify and the code is in a GitLab repo. Pls excuse sub-par commit messages and the very minimal README.

Sasha and Sophie are giving a talk at 14:30 UTC-4 Toronto as part of Our Networks distributed festival. Definitely worth grabbing a ticket, it’s super well priced considering how much Our Networks is putting on and absolutely worth supporting that org.

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Removing whitespace from around an SVG in Inkscape

For future reference, this is how to remove whitespace from around an SVG in Inkscape according to the version I’m running right now (1.0beta2):

Open up the SVG in Inkscape, then select all elements in the SVG (cmd+A). Click File in the top toolbar menu, then Document Properties. The dialogue box should open to the Page settings. Under “Orientation”, click the drop-down arrow “Resize page to content”, then click the button “Resize page to drawing or selection”.


I used to use Adobe Creative Cloud for loads of stuff but got rid of it a few months ago. It’s just so crazy expensive, and I never need it for client work anymore. Almost all of the designers I work with hand over Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD prototypes nowadays, and I’m happy using Affinity for personal stuff (Photo for image editing, Publisher for a never-ending cookbook project, etc.).

BUT. I do sometimes have to manipulate SVG icon exports that have excess white space. Previously I used Adobe Illustrator to sort that out, now I use Inkscape. I use it so rarely though that I have no muscle memory, I always forget how to crop to the edges of an SVG to get rid of that whitespace. Now I won’t forget, fingers crossed.

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Good Mediterranean recipe combo

I’m trying to do a tiny bit more meal prep on the weekend so that I don’t default to something beige or unhealthy. Last weekend I came across a great recipe combo, things that are pretty easy to manage all at once on a Sunday afternoon.

* The baba ganoush recipe is fabulous, but I’d recommend either cutting back on the garlic or mincing the garlic directly in to the lemon juice and letting those chill together for at least 10 minutes so that the garlic flavor mellows out a little.

Some tahini is trash, and that makes a huge difference in the resulting hummus or baba ganoush. Good tahini should taste nutty and silky, ideally not overly bitter, and never sour or pungent. It’s not a great sign if it is separated, that probably means that it’s been sitting out for a while. Tahini goes rancid pretty quickly, so the fresher the better and keep it in the fridge.

The best tahini I’ve ever had was Al Nakhil brand (Lebanese, comes in a beige jar with green writing and a green lid) from The People’s Supermarket in London. I don’t think I’ll find that in SF so have been trying whatever I can find. The Whole Foods 365 jar I got recently was ok so I’ll rely on that in a pinch. The jar of Tarazi I had before that was great, but very pricey from the grocery nearest to me. I’ll probably try to do a big shop at Samirami’s on Mission and 26th since I hear they’ve got great tahini and it looks like they do a lot of bulk spices and dry ingredients.

The above dishes combined with diced cucumber, diced ripe tomato, and a little bit of hot sauce is just lovely, great for multiple meals during the week. With falafel it’s even better. We used Ziyad box falafel mix and it was pretty great, but I’d love to try one of the Serious Eats falafel recipes some time. They’ve got a good food lab post on falafel. The Hilda’s Kitchen falafel recipe also looks really good.

If I didn’t have a wildly out of hand mint plant, I’d probably make the Serious Eats Israeli-style tahini sauce.

Edit 2 September 2020: Added notes about baba ganoush recipe and tahini.

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Slideshow butterfly

I’m so tired of anxiety dreams.

I only remember the end of the one last night.

I was walking down to a cove and spotted a little brown butterfly with a faint checkerboard pattern. It started basking, opening and closing in the sun, revealing that its wings were semi-translucent. They were slidesheets, each square held an image of an acquaintance that I wish I had gotten to know better. People I forgot I knew.

My field of vision zoomed in to each one Powers of Ten-style. When I was fully “in” the image it turned in to something like a home movie. I couldn’t influence anything going on and they didn’t know I was there. Usually the people in the image were older than when I had met them. (How could I possibly know what they actually look like now?) Identical twin boys I knew as a kid in southern California, a friend of a friend from Glasgow.

It was incredibly sad.

Green hairstreak butterfly on the moors in West Yorkshire

A Green Hairstreak butterfly on the moors in West Yorkshire in spring 2020. I need to get a better camera.

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Applied to be poll worker

Just applied to be a poll worker in the upcoming US election. It involves setting up your assigned polling place, opening for voters by 7am on voting day, checking in voters using precinct rosters and issuing ballots, closing the polls, and transferring custody of voting materials. The day usually lasts from 6am to 10pm and involves training in advance.

I figured they may have fewer poll workers than normal with the pandemic. My schedule is plenty flexible and I’m not considered at high risk for COVID, so I ought to help out. If you’re interested in assisting in your city, search “become a poll worker in <your city>” online to find the relevant information.


Update 19 August 2020: It took took a bit longer than I’d expected for me to be contacted after submitting my application. I received a followup email today, a little over two weeks after submission. Just mentioning here in case anyone has done the same and is a little confused about when they’re supposed to hear back.

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Finding the rhythm

I’ve finally fallen in to a decent daily rhythm, it’s taken a while post-move.

My ideal routine seems to involve being at my desk around 8:30am, then calls and correspondence with UK+EU clients and collaborators until 10 or 11.30am (depends on the day). A bit of toast or something, then try to get my head down on a particular dev task for 1–2 hrs before lunch. Not a lot of time to finish any one thing, but can usually at least progress with something. This is a good window for writing, actually! After lunch, a bit more correspondence with folks in North America and then try to get my head down again until the end of the day. That’s usually when I get the most tricky stuff done.

Of course not every day looks like that, but I think that’s what I need to aim for. When it’s thrown off, particularly when I have to interrupt the head-down time for some reason, I tend to feel like I haven’t accomplished anything in the day. Which is garbage, b/c of course I have got some stuff done. Still, it’s not a nice feeling.

Also I was doing so well with exercise before we moved, now have fallen of the horse. Need to work that back in somewhere.

I also need to be careful about not working too long of hours… It seems easy to slip in to overworking during lockdown since there’s SO LITTLE TO DO. But inevitably I start to feel burnt out after a few days of carelessness, even if the overworking is on projects I’m super thrilled about. Just need to keep tabs on it.