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Jeremy Cherfas
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Monthly report: May 2019

I began this monthly report on the first of the month, full of good intentions and excuses. That it took another five days is proof the excuses are real.

"Excuse" always seems to carry such a freight of negativity. They're not reasons for failing to accomplish what you set out to do. They just excuse you, and that's just beating yourself up. Myself. So, no more excuses. Reasons!

Onwards.

Here we are on 1 June, and although May was a good month I am feeling out of sorts. The reason, I believe, is because I let lower priority but doable things get in the way of higher priority tasks that would take longer, even though equally or more doable. So I got some good things done behind-the-scenes on my website but failed to move forward much on any of the bread stuff, book or courses

Towards the end of the month some new sources of paid work came in, and so naturally I wanted to give them plenty of attention but that’s not enough of an excuse (ahem: reason!) because they weren’t an issue in the first three weeks.

Highlights of the month:

Exist.io

Time asleep climbed by a couple of minutes. Weight may be a little bit down, but not by enough. Peanut butter is evil. Steps is bobbing along nicely at around 9500 average. I tagged Reading on 18 days, three times April's total, and finished a wonderful book that I have yet to write about. Started tagging Sticks, meaning Nordic walking, now that the weather isn't quite so dank and gray. What an awful spring it has been. But great for most of the plants.

Work

Logged 145 hours for the month and worked on 20 of the 31 days. That seems excessive, given that I was travelling for five days during which I logged very little. Last month's lack of time spent on Eat This Podcast suprised me; this month's is downright shocking. Must be because I am not logging reading, planning or even interviews that will be published later this year. The little bit of paid work I mentioned turned out to be around 15% of my time. No wonder things have slipped.

Month Total Daily Admin % ETP % Other %
05 145 7.25 40 2 58
04 128 6.4 37 28 35
03 158 7.5 44 28 28
02 121 6.0 32 42 26
2019-01 95 5.4 39 13 48
10 100 4.2 41 34 25
09 131 6.5 45 23 32
08 185 8.0 14 85 1
07 68 5.25 25 63 12
06 96 5.75 34 9 57
05 151 6.0 36 20 44
04 159 7.5 29 29 40
2018-03 152 7.0 20 10 70

Goals

Seven posts published on this blog, and some elsewhere too. I think I brought in one or two older ones, but I failed to record them. Listened to 53 podcasts.

Niggles

Having got my mapping posts working again, and at least one successful post with data collected by Overland and stored in Compass, I realise two things.

First, there is really no need for these little maps to be live. Static images would be just as useful, and doing that would eliminate all the grief currently associated with flailing around in JavaScript. Luckily, in addition to everything else he has built, Aaron has created Atlas, a service that will create image files of routes and much else besides. Making use of it will take plenty of thought and learning, but Aaron has provided what seem like very clear instructions, and in any case thought and learning is the whole point.

The second issue is the theme of this Grav website. The one I use has been deprecated in favour of a new default theme. Last time I looked at it, I didn’t much care for it, but in the meantime I have become a bit more proficient so this might be a good time to change. If I do, I want to think about consolidating my different types of post and instead making use of tags and collections to organise the way they are presented.

Final remarks

But not before I have updated the bread course notes.

Thu, 06 Jun 2019 15:15:00 +0200


Clean clickety-clack keyboard

From time to time a key on my clickety-clack keyboard gets stuck and refuses to register. Usually, I just prise off the keycap, fiddle about with an unbent paperclip or something and hope for the best, but the last time it happened it was one of the letters I need for my password and it was a royal pain. Plus, I've been saying for weeks, if not months, that the keyboard deserved a jolly good seeing to. (I've had it just over nine years now; it's the least I could do.)

Yesterday, with no urgent work on the horizon, I took the plunge. I began, as one begins all such tasks, by watching a Youtube video. I won't bother linking, because the only important advice it offered was to use plain warm water as a solvent. Had it been damaged by coffee or something nastier, perhaps I might have needed isopropyl alcohol, but in fact warm water turned out to be fine.

So, I started off with photos of the keyboard as it is, more to help replace they keys when the time came than to immortalise its state. But why not?

dirty keyboard surface

Once I had removed a couple of keys I was totally horrified. How had all that grunge accumulated. Luckily it takes a lot to disgust me.

close up of filthy keyboard with caps removed

I carried on removing keys, using an old credit card to lever them up. The big ones with the stabilisers I didn't even attempt, because really there weren't that many of them and how much grunge could hide there?

dirty keyboard with all keycaps removed

With all the keys off it was a matter of carefully removing the accumulated cruft -- a mixture of dog hair, my hair and who knows what -- with a stiff brush and then, more carefully still, with a dampened Q-tip. There was a lot of it.

accumulated grunge and dirty Q-tips

close up of cleaned keyboard with keycaps removed

I rinsed the keycaps in warm water for a while and then scrubbed at them with an old toothbrush. The water here is very hard indeed, so I thought it would be worth rinsing them in de-ionised water before setting them out to dry. I also used damp Q-tips to clean the keys I had not removed and the case. And then, a couple of hours later when I judged the keycaps to be dry enough, I consulted the photos and replaced all the keycaps. The only difficulty was the inverted-T arrow keys, which took a bit of juggling (before clicking them back on) to get right.

cleaned keyboard surface

I won't say it is as good as new. But it is jolly spiffy again, and after a day well spent it feels very satisfying to have finally given it the TLC it deserves. And, just as I said nine years ago, I now feel more motivated to invest a little time in creating some more useful keyboard shortcuts. Any suggestions?

Sat, 25 May 2019 16:56:00 +0200


The Future of Bread

two rustic bread loaves

Want to learn more about bread? And how to bake with traditional leavens? And visit a working watermill?

I will be part of a two-day workshop at Coleg Trefeca in the gorgeous Brecon Beacons in Wales on 23-24 June.

I'll be working alongside Colin Tudge, one of the most thoughtful writers on farming and agriculture, and Ruth West, who organised the first Rise of Real Bread conference in Oxford and is a force in farmers markets and agroecology.

We'll be talking about bread itself and as an example of how most food is produced today, with narrowly conceived financial profit as the goal and little regard for the health of people or the planet. Bread offers a chance to look at how we arrived at the wonder of a 36p supermarket loaf and what it would take to put that right.

During the course we will explore the history of bread and milling, modern bread production and who is leading the drive for change, and how a new localised bread culture could change the face of agriculture.

bread dough rising in a banneton

On the second day, at Talgarth Mill, we will see wheat turned into flour and together transform the flour into tasty sourdough loaves.

You will leave with a deeper understanding of the part bread plays in our culture and agriculture, a booklet of instructions and recipes, and your own sourdough starter.

Details of the course are on the Coleg Trefeca website, which has a handy-dandy link to book the course.

Syndicated from Fornacalia

Thu, 23 May 2019 17:47:00 +0200


IndieWebCamp Utrecht

Another absolutely brilliant IndieWebCamp, this time in Utrecht. By now I feel like a bit of an old hand, and it was nice to see old friends and make new ones. The first day, as usual, was devoted to group-organised sessions on different topics.

I was particularly taken with Julia Jannson's presentation of her work on The Attention Fair. This emerged from an "art school" project to bring to the surface just what people supply with their ordinary, everyday behaviour on and offline. Julia had developed a series of games and installations that illuminated the value, to others, of the things people do and say about themselves. Rather than attempt to summarise, far better to just send you off to explore the Attention Fair website.

One of the more interesting aspects of Julia's work is that while most of us in the room marvelled at her clever creations, not much of it was a surprise. That's decidedly not the case for "the public". Most of them, Julia said, were entertained by her work but thought it was a jolly good science fiction project, maybe a bit like Black Mirror. That it is real, they find truly shocking. And while the value Julia put on different sorts of information was strictly fictional, it would be interesting to know just how much advertisers were willing to pay for specific sorts of pattern. The data are there. But is there any independent research that makes use of them?

The hack day, on Sunday, was also marvellous for seeing what smart people are capable of and for pushing my own boundaries. I had resolved to install Aaron Parecki's Compass GPS tracker on my own server. I like the idea of knowing where I've been, but previous attempts to get hold of this data on my own website have been just too complicated. Compass offers an essentially friction-free experience for gathering basic location data. I got pretty far along all on my own, thanks to Aaron's clear instructions, and then ran into a brick wall. Thankfully, more knowledgeable minds than mine were available on hand, and with help from Rose and Sebastiaan I was able to break for lunch knowing that all was working. I apologise for not documenting all the things they did to divert me around my roadblock; suffice to say that it works for me.

screen showing route displayed by compass tracker

Displaying my location more publicly will require more work., although Rose is busy working on a Shortcut that will allow people to share a time-limited link to their actual position. That will be fun and handy. Then I will work on setting fuzzy areas to protect certain locations and figuring out how to display specific routes and trips on my site.

Some fantastic other demonstrations finished the hack day. Martijn built a search engine. Frank built a script to import OPML files into an indie reader. Björn made a thing that scrapes the cover art and summary of a book from one of several sources. Dylan cleaned up his site and reviewed his travel coffee maker. Johan created a Docker container for Aperture; I haven't the faintest idea what that entails, but I know that it is difficult and important. Rose and Sebastiaan worked on Seb's reader map. Julia worked away but is saving the reveal for later.

It was also gratifying to see Rose take my script for sucking up podcast listens from Overcast and, first, tidying it up (though I wish I had a slo-mo recording of what exactly she did)1 and then actually using her version to get a list of the podcasts she had listened to. I learned a huge amount about giving, taking, and sharing.

Great thanks to Frank and Tonz, who organised it all, and to Johan for hosting in his very funky space at Shoppagina. And also to all the other people there, every one of whom gave me something to think about, and many of whom gave me far more help and encouragement than they realise.

The event page has more details, including other write-ups.


  1. And it was super interesting to note that Ton had an exactly similar experience. Watching someone work, especially if they slow down to help or, even better, having them watch you, is clearly a worthwhile practice. 

Tue, 21 May 2019 15:30:00 +0200


Automating Listen posts

Getting my podcast listening history out of Overcast and into this site has been going swimmingly since I started a couple of months ago. I had to do everything manually, but that was OK as it gave me the chance to check that it was indeed all going swimmingly. While my friends have been sharing all their great ideas for the hack day at this weekend's IndieWebCamp in Düsseldorf, earlier this week I decided that the time was right to start automating my Listens posts. This was prompted by the podcast Automators #22: Text Expansion, co-hosted by one of those friends.

TextExpander is one of those apps that does so much more than merely expand text even if, like me, you refuse to upgrade to the subscription model.1 I've never quite got to grips with "proper" scripting languages, but I've dabbled enough in Applescript to be able to run other scripts, and the podcast reminded me that Text Expander can run Applescripts easy peasy. So I began hacking something together.

The first step was simply running the listens-2.php script. That worked fine once my friends pointed out to me the importance of the magic constant __DIR__ if you are going to run scripts from outside the directory they are in.

Then I wanted to be able to check the results, so I hacked together another little bit to open the folder where all those Listen posts live. That doesn't quite work as I would like, because I can only open the folder that contains the folder I want. But hey, at this stage, the need for another keystroke doesn't detract from this being another small win.

Finally, in the manual phase leading up to this, I had to push the new posts from my computer up to github, from which they were automatically sent to this site. That proved not too difficult either, thanks to a handy Stack Overflow answer.2

Here is the final script.3 The rigmarole to set thescript allows me to use a slightly different script for some testing without too much trouble.

set thepath to "/Applications/MAMP/htdocs/listens/"
set thefile to "listens-2.php"
set thescript to thepath & thefile
tell application "Terminal"
    activate
    set shell to do script "php " & quoted form of POSIX path of thescript in window 1
end tell

do shell script "cd Applications/MAMP/htdocs/grav-admin/user/pages/06.stream/ && git add -A && git commit -m ListensfromApplescript && git push"

tell application "ForkLift"
    activate
    reveal path "Applications/MAMP/htdocs/grav-admin/user/pages/06.stream/"
end tell

It worked, this morning. I don't really want to test too often as it might overuse the Overcast data and requires me to clean up after each test. But I have every expectation that it will work again tomorrow, when I have listened to some new podcasts. Maybe after a couple of weeks with this version I will have the confidence to turn it all into a cron job.


  1. I do also use Alfred to expand text and to run snippets of code, but I find Text Expander a lot more intuitive. I might need to re-examine my decision and see what additional benefits a subscription would bring. 

  2. That also provided a good explanation of why it is better to chain the commands with && rather than use ; to separate them:
    "Chaining commands with the && operator has the benefit that if the first command fails, the second command is skipped too. Semi-colons just act as command separators, as do line feeds; they don't affect execution, so even if a vital command like the cd fails the subsequent commands are still applied, but now in the wrong directory." 

  3. Improvements gratefully accepted. 

Sun, 12 May 2019 11:45:00 +0200


No Applescript in Firefox

I can't remember when I switched my everyday browser from Safari to Firefox. Quite a while ago now. But I'm seriously thinking of switching back to Safari for one reason only: automation.

screen grab of 18-year-old bug report in Mozilla Eighteen years, and counting.

The main reason I am in a browser most of the time is research. When I come across something that might be valuable, I want to save the details, either in Pinboard or else as a link in whatever I am writing. Pinboard requires a click or two no matter what browser I am using. Creating a proper Markdown-formatted link is much easier from Safari precisely because it can be controlled with Applescript, and Applescript can be invoked with Text Expander.

Firefox has an excellent extension that creates good Markdown links but it requires leaving wherever I am writing to click on the extension, select what I want it to do, go back and paste the result. I've put up with it for a while, because one of the best things Firefox has going for it (for me) is that it works with Omnibear, which allows me to make use of Micropub to add things to my own website. I hate to give that up, but the fact is that there are alternatives that will work in Safari. The trade-off may be worth it.

Sun, 05 May 2019 10:46:00 +0200


Monthly report: April 2019

I suppose that if the previous month gets done more than halfway through, then the subsequent month is going to come on fast like an express train. So here we are.

Highlights of the month, according to the journal, include:

On the minus side, the deck that I had been using in Anki to improve my Italian suddenly went AWOL and there didn't seem to be an obvious replacement. I continued to read around a bit on spaced repeition systems and language and there seems to be general agreement that the decks you make for yourself are the most effective, but I have not formulated a plan for doing that.

Exist.io

Steps went down a bit, but are still way above the global average. Sleep too is falling slightly, but slightly above the global average. Weight dropped a tiny bit. Somehow only registered 6 reading days.

Work

Logged 128 hours for the month and worked on 20 of the 30 days. Given that I didn't log a single second of the trip to Ireland, that is entirely fine. Surprised that I didn't log more time on ETP; felt like I did more. Also, logged a fair bit of time writing of one sort or another. Not a minute of paid work, which is a little unnerving. Plus, note new and improved visual presentation of table; much messier code, but much nicer look.

Month Total Daily Admin % ETP % Other %
04 128 6.4 37 28 35
03 158 7.5 44 28 28
02 121 6.0 32 42 26
2019-01 95 5.4 39 13 48
10 100 4.2 41 34 25
09 131 6.5 45 23 32
08 185 8.0 14 85 1
07 68 5.25 25 63 12
06 96 5.75 34 9 57
05 151 6.0 36 20 44
04 159 7.5 29 29 40
2018-03 152 7.0 20 10 70

Goals

Still bad! Only 4 posts on this website. Listened to 46 podcasts.

Niggles

The Listen posts are working well, whcih suggests that getting back onto posts that contain geo-information would be a good thing, in advance of the IndieWebCamp in Utrecht. I should continue doing more to automate or simplify some of the more repetitive things I do. Having bought a little keyboard, I need to play with it more.

Final remarks

Aside from the bureaucratic nightmare, life is good.

Fri, 03 May 2019 16:15:00 +0200


RIP The Curator's Code

Folksonomy is all very well, but my own set of tags leaves a lot to be desired. I'm forever giving things a tag and thinking I'll remember it and then discovering that not only do I not remember the tag, but also that the tag applies only to a single item, neither of which is very helpful. So I resolved a while ago to try and clean things up.

I printed out a list of all my Pinboard tags that had a single tag, and have been going through them slowly to see whether they might better belong somewhere else. Slow going, memory jolting, fun in a perverse kind of way and, now, actually interesting.

I had an item tagged CuCo, because it was tagged #CuCo on Twitter, where I picked it up. And I could not think what it was about. Turns out it was a link to an article about the Curator's Code, which Maria Popova (of BrainPickings) had recently launched. Now I remembered, and I also remembered thinking at the time that there was very little chance it would catch on. I've always preferred just saying I found this from someone, or I am sharing this from someone.

In the course of refreshing my memory, I clicked on the link to the original manifesto for The Curator's Code. The core idea was to encourage people to attribute the wisdom, laffs etc. that they shared, rather than pass these gems off as their own. And this back in the golden days of 2012.

To be clear, Popova's suggestion to use ᔥ and ↬ was not intended to replace the old fashioned "via" and "HT" but to promote the idea of attribution. There was a bookmark too, for anyone who found the Unicode symbols too tricky, and the bookmark had a kind of meta-purpose of promoting the Code itself.

Note: The unicode symbols ᔥ and ↬ are simply shorthand for the familiar "via" and "HT," respectively. While you may still choose to use "via" and "HT" the old-fashioned way – the goal here is to attribute ethically, regardless of how you do it – there are two reasons we are proposing the unicode characters: One, they are a cleaner, more standardized way to attribute. Two, since the characters are wrapped in a hotlink to the Curator's Code site, they serve as messengers for the ethos of the code itself, as people encounter them across the web and click to find out what they represent.

What a shame, then, that the site no longer exists. The domain registration expired on 16 February 2018, although it could still be reached until 7 December 2018, according to The Internet Archive. And no further word on the matter from Maria Popova, (although if you are a museum curator in search of a code of ethics, you may be in luck).

Ah well. Implementations are born, implementations die. The underlying idea -- attribution, credit where credit is due -- lives on. At least, it does for me.

Wed, 01 May 2019 15:59:00 +0200


Inventive

Originally published on 24-11-2009. Relevant to having dug up the post about my centenarian Italian sourdough starter, and resurfaced here partly to goad me into trying it again so that I can repost on Fornacalia.com. There are definitely changes I would make to the recipe and the method.

dough spread with prosciutto and sun-dried tomatoes

When I joined the secret confraternity of home bread bakers back in the summer [of 2009], the restaurant Necci 1924 fed us a remarkable lunch to tide us over the rising of the bread. Among the items was the most delicious kind of savoury Chelsea bun, a spiral confection of soft bread, prosciutto, tomatoes and, maybe (though I don't remember) herbs like rosemary. I ate my fill, and lusted after more. But I didn't know what they were called. So I threw myself on the assembled wisdom of The Fresh Loaf, where Scott Hall emerged from the chaos with some recommendations.1

So I did it, based on the recipe in Dan Lepard's Exceptional Breads but using my starter and only half quantities.

150 gm white starter at 100% hydration
390 ml warm water
500 gm grano tenero 0
10 gm salt
1/2 tsp demerara sugar
25 gm olive oil
100 gm prosciutto
100 gm sun-dried tomatoes

In a large bowl, I mixed the water with the starter, then stirred in 250 gm of the flour. I covered the bowl and left that to get going, about 4 1/2 hours.

Added 25 gm of olive oil (as per Scott's suggestion of 5% oil) then tipped in the remaining 250 gm of flour, the salt and the sugar. In the absence of the mixer Dan's recipe calls for I did a stretch-and-fold every 10 minutes for an hour.

I spread the dough out into a rough rectangle on a silicone mat and placed a layer of prosciutto on top, leaving about the bottom third clear along the long edge to seal it. Then striped the sun-dried tomatoes across the dough.

Rolling the dough up wasn't as hard as I expected, using the silicone scraper carefully. I transferred it onto a floured wooden board and sealed the seam as best as I could. Then sliced it into 12 rounds, which I transferred to an oiled baking tray, leaving space between them to allow for expansion. Next time I might try packing them in a little closer, even at the risk of them joining together.

Covered with a cloth and allowed to rise for about an hour, then into an oven at 220 ℃ for 25 minutes.

On removing them from the oven I brushed them again with more olive oil, going over them three times in total.

finished savoury bun

And that's it. You can see the whole set of photos here. Were they as good as the ones at Necci? I don't honestly know. May have to go back there soon. Were they good? You bet; gently chewy with the flavour of the ham and some bites intense with salty tomato. Definitely best warm, and they reheat brilliantly in a dry skillet over a low flame with a lid on.


  1. Looking back now, the specific comment seems to have vanished. I have asked why. 

Thu, 25 Apr 2019 16:30:00 +0200


Digging up old posts

Later in the summer I'll be offering some bread-making courses, and as part of that I've been excavating part of my personal baking history. Today, that was the story of how I came by one of my sourdough starters, the 100-year old Tuscan pasta madre. I snapped this portrait this morning.

Active sourdough starter

A few observations:


  1. At least I still have them to bring in here, thanks to being part of the IndieWeb before I knew that it existed. 

Wed, 24 Apr 2019 10:30:00 +0200


Page created: Tue, Jun 18, 2019 - 09:06 PM GMT