Blog: November 2018

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Some CSA cooking

  • 1 small shallot, chopped small
  • half a large black radish, sliced very thin (I used a vegetable peeler and then chopped up the last stub)
  • 2 carrots (~6"), ditto
  • three leaves of Chinese cabbage, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • butter
  • sea salt

Melt butter in a skillet and cook shallots and the chopped "stubs" from the root veggies. After a couple minutes, add the thinly-sliced radish and carrots. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are almost to desired level of done-ness. Add cabbage and sea salt and continue cooking a couple minutes longer. Serves two as a side.

This was a nice mix of colors and tastes. I didn't take a picture and it's all gone now, sorry.

I usually cook vegetables with oil rather than butter, but a gut feeling told me that butter would taste better here. I'm not sure why. (But it was a dairy meal so I could.)

(The other half of the radish is getting roasted with some other things tomorrow night.)

Bad IT day

Because of corporate changes (spun off from one company and merged with another), we have to remove our last dependencies on the old company's IT infrastructure. In this last round, they move our email and our (Windows) login accounts to a new domain. My migration was today.

They've sent lots of email about this over the last few months, but they left out some important details. Read more…

Winter CSA, week 1

We joined a CSA for the first time, finally enticed by a pickup location at my workplace. The first pickup was today.

  • 1 head hydroponic lettuce
  • 1 bunch Chinese cabbage
  • about a dozen small carrots (about 6" long)
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 3 shallots
  • 3.5 largish fingerling sweet potatoes (I assume the .5 was an accident and somebody else has the other half)
  • 1 black Spanish radish (the manifest said "radishes"; Wikipedia said they're bigger than red radishes; this one weighs about half a pound)
  • 7 Empire apples
  • half gallon apple cider (not from the same farm as the apples)
  • 2 pounds unbleached bread flour
  • 5oz Bewitched cheese: "Enjoy this exclusive one time only cheese from Hidden Hills Dairy, available only to Winter CSA members! This cheese is a mix between their Buttercup and an Alpine Cheese. Great for snacking, making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, or as an addition to mac and cheese! If enjoying as a snack, let it come to room temperature first."

For some of the flour I'm going to follow their suggestion of Japanese milk rolls, assuming I can find dry milk. (! That shouldn't be hard, but it wasn't to be found anywhere in our usual grocery store!) I don't know yet how I'll use the black radish; maybe sauteed with shallots and cabbage (and thinly-sliced carrot?), or maybe roasted with carrots and sweet potatoes (and shallots?). I'll do something savory with the squash. There might be apple cobbler in my future, but apples are good for eating raw too. By default the lettuce becomes salad, but I welcome other suggestions (for any of this).

Read more…

Stack Exchange's growing pains

Stack Exchange used to be able to function like a smaller company...until they couldn't. They don't seem to know how to be a bigger company yet, so sometimes they step in it badly. This time they not only stepped in it badly but they then reached for the shovel to dig even deeper.

Background: If you visit any site on the network you'll see, partway down the right column, a list of random-seeming questions from other network sites. These are called "hot network questions", and the communities have been asking for years for SE to tune the algorithm that chooses questions. (It responds to velocity, not quality, and thus optimizes for controversy.) People complained; nothing happened.

In mid-October somebody who turned out to be a troll complained on Twitter about two such questions, seen on Stack Overflow, from the site Interpersonal Skills. The title of one of them was not great (which is what edits are for); the other one was fine. But this person got a rant on and has followers. Within 40 minutes, an employee responded with something like "that's not ok; I've just removed that site from the hot list and we'll look into what's going on with that site". Great way to throw a community under the bus there. (The community wasn't notified until hours later.) Meanwhile, one of the moderators on that site, who I know to be a clueful and thoughtful person, responded to the tweet (in retrospect a bad idea) and tried to help. Other people responded too because, hey, that's how Twitter works.

So then our Twitter troll (twoll?) ranted some more because people were responding, and accused the moderator and others by name of "sealioning" (apparently a form of trolling) and generally spouted outrage, and a different employee jumped in and said something like "if those messages came from mods we'll fire them" -- without even asking first what these allegedly-trolling messages said. (The employee thought they were direct messages, meaning you'd have to ask because DMs are private.) So the employee jumped to a faulty conclusion and validated the troll without seeming to consider that maybe the facts were not as presented. Read more…

Tech overflow

I guess, in retrospect, it makes sense that I had three active computers on my desk today.

At work we are in the end stages of an acquisition. In this last step, they move us off of the old employer's domain. That means email migration and new login credentials for our PCs. The latter is being implemented as: create new account, copy files from one profile to another, leave the end user to clean up the resulting mess. Read more…

Power and privilege, of a sort

We lost power around 1 or 2 AM. (Having a UPS means never having to oversleep your no-longer-powered alarm clock...) We've just gotten our first snow of the season -- only an inch or so, but it came with a lot of ice, I'm told, causing downed tree limbs affecting power lines. We powered down our computers, turned off the chirping UPSs, and went back to sleep, expecting to be awakened by a blinking clock before morning.

That didn't happen. This morning after a quick shower (the water heater is gas-powered, but the decider-to-cue-heat is apparently electrical) I checked the freezer -- surprisingly warm but the meat was all still frozen. (Why did we lose fridge effectiveness more quickly in November, when the environment should help, than in July when we lost power for about 10 hours?) Duquesne Light had no estimates for restoration; they said 30,000 customers lost power and that's obviously going to take some time. Whee.

So I put the crock pot of stew for Shabbat on the back porch where it'll stay cooler than in the fridge, packed up all the frozen meat and fish, and headed to work -- where we have a fridge, the freezer of which only holds ice cubes. I think I get some brownie points for thinking of that before caffeine. :-) I'm glad we have that fridge at work; never expected to use it this way.

Google calendar can't grok holidays?

When I use the Google calendar in a browser on my desktop, I can see the two sets of holidays I've selected (US and Jewish) just fine. I used to see them on my Android phone, too. In September I noticed that it wasn't showing me Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, but I was busy and didn't investigate. I don't remember if it showed me Labor Day.

I pretty much only need this information on phone when I'm out somewhere trying to schedule something a few months out. In other words, when I'm at a doctor's or dentist's office trying to schedule the next appointment.

I had a dentist appointment last week so this annoyance is fresh in my mind again. I found lots of trails from other people trying to solve this problem (DenverCoder9, what did you see??), but no working answers. And then, in poking around on my phone more, I saw that it does have an entry for Black Friday -- but not for Thanksgiving the day before. I didn't put that there, so it must be coming from the US calendar.

Where the heck are my holidays? Why is this hard, and what happened a few months ago to mess them up?

Mixed messages

It's benefits-enrollment season at work. The web site is predictably slow and flaky, but after having key pages time out several times, I've finally got a stake in the ground. You can make changes up to the deadline so I figure "choose something now, review in more detail later" works better than being part of the last-minute crunch.

My costs for the main health plan and for the dental plan are both doubling (comparing apples to apples as much as possible). On the other hand, the long-term-disability insurance I pay for now will be covered in full next year. I, um, don't know what message they're trying to send there -- getting sick is more expensive but if you get really sick we'll cover you? Probably not what they intended.

(I assume that their actuaries simply optimized for the lowest corporate expenses traded against offering benefits employees won't rebel over, and there is no deeper meaning. But oh, the subtext!)

Protests today against firing Sessions

Yesterday Trump fired Jeff Sessions and appointed a replacement. That replacement is now in charge of Mueller's investigation into Trump's manipulation of the 2016 election. That person can interfere with Mueller at will; Sessions had recused himself.

Trump is, essentially, trying to appoint his own prosecutor and investigators for the high crimes he is accused of. There will be protests across the US at 5PM local time. (The original post had a link to find your local protest.)

Mueller is not dumb and presumably planned for this eventuality. That might make what Trump is doing less effective than the president intends. It does not make it any less corrupt.

Chaos, lost trust, grief, and restoration

In response to Dear Stack Overflow, we need to talk, Jon Ericson, then a community manager at SO, wrote Chaos, Lost Trust, Grief, and Restoration. His post begins:

Over the weekend, one of our most respected users and moderator extraordinaire, Monica Cellio, wrote a post that shook me up. Please read it if you haven't. Come back, if you like, but please read that post first.

I'm not going to detail what happened or why; that story belongs to others. I'm going to venture a guess from knowing Monica for years that her words reflect a sense Stack Overflow, my employer, betrayed her. As operators of the Stack Exchange network, it was our responsibility to protect the volunteers who make it run from outside threats and we failed to do that job. It doesn't much matter that the action we took was minor in the grand scheme of things or that our intentions were to protect the community from a different sort of harm. We broke trust and our relationship will never be the same.

He said a lot more in the post. I wrote the following in comments: Read more…