Archive for the ‘Administrative’ Category

Bad Blogger   Leave a comment

I’ve been a bad blogger.

In March, 2012, I decided to shoot for twenty posts a month. I was open to how that would be done. Sometimes it would just be a picture, or an embeded YouTube video. Other times, it would be something longer, like photos from a zoo trip, or a pen profile. The idea of a goal was to have a way to drive producing some content, and perhaps sharpen my writing.

It did that decently, until the last several months. Last October, it dipped, and it’s been unstable since. then, this month, the wheels fell off the wagon. It’s the eleventh day of the month, and this is my first post. I sincerely doubt I’ll do twenty.

Why? Hard to say. Part of it has been that I’ve ironically had a lot going on, and just not taking the time to write. There have been lots of bike rides, cooking, pens, and cats. Part of it has been a quality thing: I don’t want to post the same ten pictures from the zoo.

But I still value the exercise in writing, photography, and other disciplines. I know that, even if no one else reads it, I like having the log of what happened–it makes for a great diary.

So, I’m taking the pressure off myself. My goal is now half. Ten posts a month sounds good, with a stretch goal of twenty. Hopefully, a more achieviable goal will prevent this blog from fading.

Posted 2014-07-11 by Mr. Guilt in Administrative

ANZAC Biscuits   Leave a comment

The gastronome Jean Brillat-Savarin famously said “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.” Food can be a defining characteristic of a culture, and a great portal into it. It is reflected in the ingredients available to a people, how they cook it, or the history tied to a food. When I try something new–even things I’ve eaten but not started making myself–I often find myself down a Wikipedia rabbit hole, learning of a food’s origins.

ANZAC Biscuits FTW! #food #bakimg #foodcatspens #yumCase in point: when I posted about World War Two Oatmeal Molasses Cookies, fellow blogger Aussie Emjay commented that they reminded her of ANZAC biscuits her grandmother made. I skimmed the recipe she linked to (“Anzac biscuits, No 2”), and saw I needed golden syrup, a cane syrup popular in Australia. Once I got some other baking done and eaten, I took on the challenge.

ANZAC biscuits are associated with ANZAC Day. Observed on April 25, this day commemorates the sacrifices of the military of Australia and New Zealand during all wars. It is tied to the start of the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War. This campaign saw major casualties for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (the acronym giving birth to the term “ANZAC”). The biscuits are often sold to raise money for veterans’ charities.

I had to explain to my daughter that, in the British Commonwealth, “biscuit” doesn’t refer to the southern style quick bread I make for breakfast, but for what we, in the United States, call a “cookie.” In Australia, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs controls the commercial use of the term “ANZAC biscuit,” ensuring the recipe is consistent with tradition, and referred to as “biscuits.” I’ll honor that convention.

As I said, the key unique ingredient is golden syrup. It is a cane, rather than a corn or maple, syrup. Straight up, it reminded me a bit of corn syrup combined with honey and a dash of vanilla. This was mixed with coconut, sugar, oats, and flour. The dough was surprisingly dry, but I could get a solid mass as needed by squeezing.

The recipe called for a moderate oven, and didn’t have a clear cook time. Cross referencing other recipes, it tending to be 15-22 minutes in a 350° F oven. My first batch was baked towards the high end of that time, and, for me, was a bit long. Once cooled, they were very hard, but several seconds in a microwave got them to a softer texture. The second batch, cooked for 15-17 minutes, stayed reasonably soft, though warming them was still nice, as is usually the case for all cookies.

The flavor is quite good. As I was preparing the dough, I thought chocolate chips would be a good addition, but once out of the oven, I felt they were plenty sweet. It reminded me a bit like granola, only sweeter. It almost tasted healthy. Almost. It was very good.

As I said, food is a good gateway into a culture. Making the ANZAC biscuits inspired learning more about these nations’ role in World War One. I’m sure their unique flavor will find their way into future goodie boxes. Overall, it was a fun thing to make.

Posted 2014-05-24 by Mr. Guilt in food, paper draft first

Handwritten First Draft   Leave a comment

I’ve commented in the past that, for me, a “distraction free writing environment” involves actual pen and paper. It seems that I’m not alone in this. I’ve read many studies which show that the brain processes things differently when handwriting than typing. I think the unitasking nature of pens combined with an inherently slower speed forces more thoughtful writing–be it in composition or note taking.

A new blog, The Cramped, celebrates folks who write with analog tools. It’s less tool-centric, unlike other pen blogs (which feature pen, ink, and paper reviews). rather, it looks at how paper is integrated into workflows and how it affects the creative process.

(I use “creative” quite broadly. As expected, a painting, poem, or story is a creative pursuit. However, any form of writing qualifies. Synthesizing data into a report, paper, or argument certainly qualifies as creative. It is simply more functional than philosophical or aesthetic.)

Reading the posts, I’ve become inspired. I’m creating a new category for this blog, “paper draft first.” This will be for posts where the first draft is on paper. I already do this informally–my journal is, and will continue to be, the place where the first seeds of some ideas are planted into the world. However, I’ll also start to write them out into something more closely resembling the final form.
Beyond simply being another excuse to use my pens, I want to see if this improves the quality o the longer written posts. There will still be plenty of posts–especially photo-heavy ones–that will be digital only. IN fact, I expect there to be revisions between the paper and the final post. This is a draft after all. After a time of this process, I’ll post follow-ups, to share thoughts on this method.

Harder to Love Instagram   2 comments

Instagram ShareInstagram seems to be getting harder and harder to love.

Back in December, it looked like I was going to stop using Instagram. The issue was over a licence whose language could be interpreted as claiming rights to the photos I took. I had written a script to get the HTML code to embed pictures from instagram into my blog. Over the course of several hours, I rehosted them on Flickr (who supports the Creative Commons licence)), and pointed blog posts to those images. My plan was to stop using it all-together. However, Instagram backed off that langauge, and I kept using that particular tool.

Still, I kept the photos I used for this blog either on WordPress or Flickr, just in case. Instagram is owned by Facebook. Even though I have an account on the latter, I don’t fully trust it,and am prepared to jettison it at a moment’s notice. The primary place I used Instagram photos on the blog was in my monthly hodge podge. Most people who follow this blog may follow me on social media. However, putting photos in the hodge podge allowed for more context to be put around them. Also, my blog is as much about my remembering things as it is about sharing. What makes it here are things I don’t want to risk getting lost in more ephemeral places. Typically, I’d go back at the end of the day, click the “share” button on one of my pictures that was already posted, and add it to Flickr. Piece of cake.

With the latest update, however, this workflow seems to have been impacted. While I can share to Flickr at the initial posting of a photo, the button is not present when I go back to a photo already uploaded. A look at a few forums on the web confirms that I am not the only person to have encountered this behavior.

My first thought was to dust off the script. However, my first pass at trying to use it shows they changed the HTML code, so that it can’t be used. Instagram released an embed feature, but, unlike Flickr, it puts an ugly frame around the picture (and doesn’t really offer controls around the size of the image, etc.). The pictures are saved to the camera roll on my phone, so I can manually upload it to Flickr as a work-around, but it’s not as simple.

My hope is that this reflects a bug in the software rather than a change in policy, and it will be remediated in the next release of the app. However, as Instagram becomes more and more annoying, it makes me want to pick a different tool for my spontaneous photo sharing.

UPDATE: This very afternoon, an update was released, which resolved this issue. So, just a bug. Huzzah!

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