Categories
cooking

The Wonder of Pantry Staples

Jen wasn’t feeling well, so I made dinner tonight in between work things. It worked, but it got me thinking about how much easier life is when you have a pantry of staples you can throw together to make something yummy.

Tonight’s recipe was a Mexican-inspired pork stew. Measurements are going to be difficult, but here’s what I rummaged from the kitchen:

  • 2/3 of a frozen pork loin
  • 2 big russet potatoes
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 2 glugs of dark soy sauce
  • 2 large dried ancho chilis
  • 2 cans of Rotel tomatoes and chilis
  • 4 cubes of chicken bouillon
  • 2 big glugs of white whine
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • A bunch of random spices like cumin, dried cilantro, onion powder, etc

Aaaaaaand, here’s what I ended up putting together with all of that:

  • Chopped up the onions and potatoes
  • Soaked the ancho chilis and chicken boullion cubes in 6 cups boiling water for 10 minutes
  • Sauteed the onions in some olive oil until they started to brown
  • Added the garlic
  • Deglazed the Instant Pot with the white wine and let it simmer a bit.
  • Added the potatoes, tomatoes and chilis and the pork.
  • Poured the liquid and chilis over everything in the Instant Pot, put the lid on, sealed it and turned it on to the Soup setting.

Since the pork loin was frozen when I put it in, I quick released it when it was done, then pulled the pork out and cut it up into cubes. I put the pork back in the Instant Pot for 10 minutes to make sure it was cooked, and then served in a bowl topped with some sour cream.

It was delightful.

All of that to say that making dinner tonight I was struck by how easy it was to throw dinner together because I had the pantry staples to make dinner happen. Having things like dark soy, ancho chilis, canned tomatoes, etc made it possible to make dinner without it being an ordeal. It’s so much fun to have all these “toys” to play with!

So, get yourself some dark soy sauce and dried chilis, then play around!

Categories
family

The Cultural Event That is Blaseball

I started playing (watching? participating in?) blaseball about six weeks ago. Imagine fantasy baseball where everything is fantasy. The teams are fake. The players are all generated by computers. The games are simulated. But, there’s play by play you can follow along with during the games, betting to do, favorite teams to pick, new rules to vote on and now idols to choose.

It’s ridiculous and a lot of fun. It’s become a totally partipitory thing on Twitter too, where fans of the game come up with backstories and cards for the favorite players and teams, and come up with ways to play with the “world” of the game and cause trouble (and they have… delightful silly trouble).

With work, I can’t keep up with everything going on with the fans on Twitter… so I recruited my kids! May and Brian are both now signed up and playing along. We have an epic text thread where we share betting strategies and they keep me up to date on the latest news. Brian comes in at least once a day with some crazy thing going on, or to discuss a new betting strategy. May will give me the latest gossip while we’re hanging out in the kitchen making lunch.

It’s been great to have some new thing to do with them that doesn’t involve trying to get each other to watch some movie or anime.

So, if you’ve got slightly nerdy, competitive, lore-obsessed kids, check it out! It’s free. It’s weird. It’s great.

Categories
W3C web standards

A Web Standards Adventure

The amazing Molly posted a tweet yesterday with a photo of a bunch of us at the 2006 W3C Plenary in Mandelieu, France. I hadn’t thought about it in a while, but that plenary was the site of one of my few accomplishments in the web standards world.

A little background, since this is now ancient web history. I was on the CSS Working Group at the W3C, representing AOL, from ~2004 – ~2008. I was just a front-end developer who was passionate about the web and standards-based development. Kimberly Blessing, who was already a member of the group and my co-conspirator at AOL, encouraged me to join, so I did. It was surprisingly easy. I just had to ask my manager, who had no idea what it was, and Roger Martin, AOL’s director of all-things-standards, and I was in. There was no test or interview.

And that’s how a college dropout who didn’t build web browsers and had no idea what he was getting himself into joined the standards body that creates CSS, the members of which are geniuses who invented the language in the first place or actually build the web browsers I used every day. It was intimidating, and I spent my first two years in the WG trying to figure out what the hell I was doing there and how I could contribute. Kimberly and I figured out fairly quickly that we were the voice of the “authors” of the web – all the people who build web pages. So, we advocated for things that would make our lives easier and make it easier to build the complex layouts our bosses were demanding.

If you were involved in this story and I’ve left you out, I’m sorry. It was a long time ago, and my memory is a little foggy. If I’ve gotten any of the facts wrong, please let me know!

Now on to 2006 and the Plenary. This was when the WHATWG and their “guerrilla” HTML5 standard were really starting to gain traction with web developers, to the point that browser vendors were actually starting to implement pieces of it. We were still stuck with IE6, but I think there were rumbles at that point that Microsoft was starting to budge and was going to start working on IE again.

That was a lot of preamble, I’m sorry. Every year at the Plenary, there’s a big cocktail party / reception thing where the nerds can all cut loose and talk about something other than web standards (we still end up talking about web standards). The day of that party, the CSS WG spent what felt like 72 hours in a meeting with the XHTML 2 working group discussing the standard and aaaaaaaaall of the many issues they needed us to address so CSS would work with it.

I left the meeting completely frustrated by what felt like a betrayal of the web’s real innovation: fault-tolerance and ease-of-use. It felt like XHTML 2.0 was reinventing the wheel and leaving out the best parts. It felt like we were wasting our time when HTML5 was right there, which felt like an iteration on the web that exists and added important missing ingredients to it.

So, I get to the cocktail party and I’m in a funk. I start talking to Daniel Glazman, one of my all-time favorite W3C people and a legendary dinner companion, and asked him what probably felt like a million questions about why this and that and the other thing and eventually, “Is anyone even going to use XHTML 2?” He laughed and said, “Why don’t you go ask them?”

And that’s when the lightbulb went off. After two years on the CSS WG collaborating with legendary geniuses, I realized that not only were all the browser vendors represented, but so were the web’s largest publishers of content. Hell, I represented AOL. Yahoo was there. Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera, Apple… all there. So, I made the rounds and asked all the browser vendors and publisher folks I could find, “Are you planning on doing anything with XHTML 2? What about HTML5?”

The answers were unanimous: no one was planning on doing anything with XHTML 2 and everyone was planning on implementing at least some of HTML5 (some had already started).

I think what happened next is that I grabbed Daniel and Arun “World’s Greatest Werewolf Player” Ranganathan (who was AOL’s AC Rep and also way smarter than me, and better looking) and told them what I’d found and that’s where the idea of writing a letter came from. We decided that if we could get the major browser vendors and web publishers to jointly sign a letter throwing our support behind HTML5 and the WhatWG and asking the W3C to bring HTML5 into the W3C that it would be way more effective than us doing it individually.

Arun and I gathered all of our victims… umm… potential co-conspirators and pulled them out in the hallway. I explained the idea, Arun got all diplomatic, and we did it. The letter got written (this part is all fuzzy for me – I don’t remember who wrote it or who ended up signing it), sent, and things happened. The HTML Working Group was reformed, HTML5 became a standard within the W3C, and the web is a whole lot better for it.

I wasn’t qualified to write standards. I couldn’t even write the complex test cases used to test implementations. I gave feedback and tried to advocate for things that would make life easier for web developers and end users.

But, I am a professional troublemaker. I’m really good at it.

So, when you think you’re not qualified, or can’t get anything done, remember that an idiot without a college degree convinced a bunch of geniuses to do something crazy and in a small way helped make the web better. If I can do it, you can too. It takes creativity, perseverence and a willingness to ask the question everyone’s thinking out loud.

You can do anything. You are a being of infinite potential constrained only by the sack of meat you use to navigate the world and your brain’s idea of what’s possible. I believe in you.

Categories
racism

It’s Not a Sprint

I’ve been talking to my coworkers and a bunch of friends all week, trying to help them come to terms with privilege and racism. I can feel their urgency to know everything and do everything… and I get it.

I saw a tweet the other day that white people are all “cramming for the racism test”, which I think is a great metaphor for that urge to try to learn everything all at once and get right with it.

(the whole thread is great and largely inspired this post)

It’s not going to happen. You will burn yourself out. You’re not giving yourself time to process all this new-to-you information.

I’ve been working on a metaphor for the opposite of that, and I think I have one I’d like to try out on you.

Racism is not new, and the work to fix it has been ongoing. White people, we are late to the work – so very late. We are so far behind the work that it’s not a sprint to catch up, it’s a marathon.

You don’t win a marathon at a sprint. You win a marathon with pace. We need to find the pace for ourselves that allows us to catch up, without giving up, without stopping and deciding it’s too hard.

Marathons take training and patience and practice.

We need to pair up with other people and hold each other accountable for our progress. Look up SURJ and find your local chapter. Reach out to your friends and buddy up. Have regular check ins and make sure you’re keeping a pace that will allow you to catch up. Ask for help.

Your practice might be starting today. That’s OK. Welcome to the team.

Categories
racism

Murder by 911

This Huffpost piece on Amy Cooper is really good and you should read it first before continuing.

It might have been subconscious, but it was attempted murder, and deep down she knew it. Just like Carolyn Bryant knew what would happen to Emmett Till. Just like countless others knew what they were doing when they committed murder by 911.

Racism is in our founding documents. It is in every era of our history. We’ve all been taught it in school, in church, by experience.
Racism is as much a part of our culture as anything else.

And if you, my fellow white people, think you don’t have a “racist bone in your body,” I invite you to rethink that. Do some reading. Do some soul searching. It’s in there.

It’s time to name it. It’s time to call it out. It’s time to do the work to counteract all those narratives that have been placed in our heads by 400+ years of racist indoctination.

We all have racist feelings. If you grew up in the US, it’s impossible not to.

IT IS NOT OUR FAULT WE WERE TAUGHT ALL OF IT.

Admitting you have racist feelings doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It means you’re American. If you embrace those racist feelings and run with them, you’re A racist.

If you work towards curing yourself of those feelings (I don’t even know how to express this) and work against them, then you might be anti-racist one day.

It’s how we grapple with them and deal with them that counts.
We all have to do better. We have to do the work. We have to call it out when we see it and compel our friends, neighbors and family to do better.

I struggle with how to talk about it because I feel unqualified. But, I feel worse if I say nothing. So, please correct me when I’m wrong, and I’ll keep trying to be and do better.

Categories
baking Brian family Food Thoughts

On to the Good Stuff

I was talking to a friend in the TechSAV Slack this morning about people running around without masks and being aggressively ignorant about it online and in person and as I was about to spiral into anger and sadness, I just decided… I don’t want to.

Instead, I decided to hop over here and write something about all the good stuff that’s happened while I’ve been stuck at home with my family – the happy accidents, the intentional accidents, and the successes (both intentional and accidental).

  • The Wire: The Ringer has a new podcast recapping every episode of my favorite show of all time. I used this as an opportunity to get Brian to watch the show with me, and he has! We’re now several episodes ahead of the podcast, but he’s really into the show, so I’m fine plowing ahead.
  • Home Haircuts: Brian has been growing out his hair since 8th grade (he’s just finishing 10th). The other day, he said, “I’m thinking of shaving my head.” I asked him 3-4 times if he was sure he wanted to. He said yes, so we grabbed the clippers and a chair, and went to the backyard. It was surprisingly fun to take all that hair off his head.
  • Exercise: I was doing pretty well on the bike last fall and then just stopped… and I can’t remember why. But, I’m back! I closed the Move ring on my watch every day last week, and am on to closing it this week too!
  • Gardening and the Barter Economy: I decided it was time to try gardening again, so I planted a bunch of seeds and did the whole “throw scallion ends in a jar” thing. The scallion trick works great, by the way. The seeds? Not so much. But, I have a friend who loves bread and is an amazing gardener, so I’m trading her a loaf of sourdough for a bunch of seedlings that will get planted this weekend. I even set up a table for gardening in the backyard that will hopefully keep the terrible weeds from my dilapidated raised beds away from the new plants.
  • Cooking With Constraints: We’ve been trying to only go to the store every 2-3 weeks, which means towards the end of that time, we have to get creative with our meals. We’ve been trying all kinds of recipes, and it’s been a lot of fun tweaking them to use the ingredients we have instead of running to the store. My favorites so far have been Bang Bang Chicken and Scallion Pancakes.

There are probably more things, but that’ll do for now. I hope you’re staying safe and as happy as you can be.

Categories
racism terrorism

Defending the Indefensible

If you’re thinking about jumping into someone’s comments to try to defend three armed men chasing down and killing an unarmed man running on a public street… just don’t.

Their whiteness doesn’t give them authority or agency over brown bodies. Slavery is over. Jim Crow is supposedly over.

They had zero authority to do whatever it is they said they were trying to do.

Before you say anything, and I mean anything, examine what you’re really thinking and why you feel you need to defend them; interrogate your own learned racism.

Read Understanding and Dismantling Racism. Read The Half Has Never Been Told.

Until then, please choose to stay quiet. No one needs your opinion, especially not people hurting over yet another case of white men who think they’re judge, jury and executioner.

Mourn with those who mourn. May justice be done.

Categories
current events daily tedium

One Month and Change

I left the house yesterday for the first time in over 35 days. It was just to take some soup to my in-laws, but it felt weird hopping in the car and driving. Jen’s been doing all the errands because I’ve been working, and since I’m already a mess thanks to my asthma and allergies, it’s better I reduce my exposure to everyting.

I thought I’d write more during this. I like the idea of keeping a journal during this pandemic to look back on. That didn’t happen. I think mostly because not much is happening. The days all kind of bleed together. I have little projects, but nothing I really feel like talking about. I don’t feel like doing more baking shows. My experimentation in the kitchen is now mostly trying to come up with creative ways to use up almost-expired canned goods.

I love that people are being creative within the constraints of our new reality. I don’t know where we’ll end up after this, but I’m hoping that creativity doesn’t stop.

I wish I had something useful to say. I’m just trying to keep going.

Categories
current events

You Are Forgiven

Ever since I discovered Hadestown (the album, not the broadway play, which I would love to see), I’ve been listening to a lot of Anaïs Mitchell. This song came up in a playlist today and it brought tears to my eyes.

I couldn’t tell you why.

Or, maybe I can.

I’m tired, and frustrated, and sad, and angry… and those feelings are stuck in my head and heart. I’m not sleeping much. I’m working a lot… and work is hard, because almost everyone has stopped hiring.

I know I’m lucky. I still have a job. Millions don’t. And maybe that’s why. I’m also feeling ungrateful.

May we all be forgiven for our uncharitable and unhelpful, but totally human, emotions right now.

Categories
baking Baking With Kevin

Baking With Kevin: Sourdough

Due to the outrageous demands of about three people, I did another episode of Baking With Kevin, this time about sourdough and walking through my all-time favorite recipe (including the tweaks I’ve made to it over the years I’ve been making it).

This was my first time trying out Facebook Live and other than the video being portrait, it wasn’t horrible. I could actually see peoples’ comments and questions as I was working, which was easier than the previous Google Meet-based (OK, totally calling it Meetspace from now on) episode. It’s still really weird essentially talking to myself.

I posted these to the Facebook event before I started the video, because the process takes so long, the only live demo part was dividing the dough and forming loaves. So, now you get to see them, and the video at the bottom! Lucky you.

A levain sitting in the mixing bowl waiting to get turned into bread dough
I mix up my levain in the mixing bowl, because… why dirty more than one bowl?
The inside of a mixing bowl full of shaggy bread dough.
After mixing all the ingredients together, I let it autolyse (give the flour more time to absorb the water) for an hour, which is twice as long as the recipe calls for. I’ve found it makes kneading a lot easier.
A shaggy mess of kneaded dough in the mixing bowl.
This is what my dough looks like after kneading. It should be sticky. I usually pry it out of the bowl with my hard spatula.
Freshly kneaded dough in an oiled bowl
Hey, there’s my awesome spatula! And some dough ready to bulk ferment!
A tripod, bowl with a towl over it, spatula, two brotforms and a dutch oven on my kitchen counter
Everying in its place, ready to film the episode.
Two gorgeous loaves of pain au levain on a cooling rack.
And here’s the final product! I meant to take a picture of the cuts before baking, but I forgot. Next time.

The next episode will probably be Michael Ruhlman’s sandwich bread, since so many people are baking now just to pass the time, and avoid going to the store. If I can help them get a little more comfortable making bread, I guess that’s something.