Blog: August 2020

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.

Well, he asked...

A (newer) coworker asked if he could pick my brain about a certain part of our product. Sure, I said -- and I asked some questions to figure out what he already knows (or doesn't). We chatted a bit, and then I said "Ok, I have some homework for you -- please read X and Y before we talk".

He responded with "pop quiz next Wednesday at 3".

So I scheduled the meeting. I mean, wouldn't you? :-)

Taking data at face value

This is surreal. A year ago, somebody entering data on Open Street Map recorded a suburban building as being 212 stories. A backyard shed, apparently. It seems to have been an honest typo, later corrected. It happens. No big deal, right?

The error was later corrected by another @openstreetmap user, BUT, in the interim, Microsoft took an export of the data and used it to build Flight Simulator 2020. The result... this incredible monolith (2/2)

screenshot from game

The original thread where people tracked it down is hilarious.

Six weeks to the gallon

I had an ophthalmologist appointment this morning -- previous one got cancelled because the pandemic was in full bloom then, so I was well overdue. (Everything is as expected, fortunately.) When I went out to the car I opened the glovebox to deposit a new insurance card and, out of curiosity, checked my logbook.1

I last got gas in early March.

I do drive the car around the neighborhood every now and then; I've been told this is important for the brake rotors, which depend on regular friction to keep, I dunno, barnacles or something from building up. But I haven't really gone anywhere. My doctor's office is about seven miles from home, so by recent standards this was an expedition.

1 Yes, I keep a paper log for my car -- have since I bought my first car, having learned the habit from my father.2

2 Having recently learned how to do footnotes in CommonMark, a flavor of Markdown I had not previously used, I instinctively tried it here. Nope. I don't know what Markdown flavor Dreamwidth uses, but here I need to use <sup> tags to do that.

More sourdough science

The friend who gave me the sourdough starter recently gave me a copy of Classic Sourdoughs, Revised: A Home Baker's Handbook by Ed Wood and Jean Wood. This is the book she learned from, she speaks highly of it, and she was tired of having to look things up in it when I asked her questions so she got me my own. :-)

The basic recipe in there (the authors recommend that you get this one down first before moving on to others) calls for feeding the starter to make it active, then feeding (part of) it again to get what they call a "culture proof", and then using that to make the bread. My earlier attempts didn't include that step; I was feeding the starter, waiting for it to expand, and then using that to bake with (and keeping the rest as starter). I'm getting better rise now.

There were two other differences I wanted to test (well three, but I didn't formally test the last):

  • The book says to feed the part of the culture proof you don't use in bread again before you put it away. That seems wasteful, so I wanted to find out if it makes a difference. Last week I divided my leftover culture proof, feeding half and not feeding the other half. (Remember, it's already been fed twice on the way to getting here.)

  • The book recommends putting the loaf in a cold oven and then turning it on, baking at 375F. The authors say you'll get a nice "oven spring" that you can watch happen suddenly, except that covering the bread with a bowl for humidity defeats that. (I left an earlier loaf uncovered, trying the pan of water instead for humidity, but saw no sudden spring (though it did expand) and was not happy with the resulting crust.)

The third item was using bread flour instead of all-purpose flour. The book actually uses all-purpose in its recipes, and that's what I used in my previous two loaves with this book.

Today (and yesterday, because sourdough requires time) I filled out a little two-by-two matrix: without the extra feed ("1") and with ("2"), crossed by cold-start ("C") and hot-start ("H") in which you preheat the baking sheet, deposit the dough onto it, and bake at 450F. I made two dough batches (for the different starters) following the same recipe, processes, and timings until we got to the baking stage. I divided each into two at the dough-proof stage. I baked the two "C" variants together and then the two "H" variants, which means that within each pair the dough for one had a little more pre-cook time than the dough for the other, but I'm prepared to call that not significant.

All loaves were made with bread flour. All loaves were brushed with olive oil right before baking. All loaves were covered with inverted metal bowls for the first half of their cooking time.

Also, all loaves held their shape better than in the past. I found myself adding some flour toward the end of the kneading (last night); possibly the bread flour makes a difference here too. Read more…

New Codidact communities

I am delighted by how well things are going on the Judaism community on Codidact. We have a lot of active people and interesting questions. I have my people back. And in time we'll broaden our activities; there are discussions of an on-site blog (for torah commentary) and a dictionary or wiki of Jewish and halachic terms and concepts. We've also integrated with Sefaria, the big online collection of sources, which is cool and produces bidirectional links.

Paging Dr. Whom and other linguists: Languages & Linguistics is a new site and currently has questions about Hebrew, Arabic, a comparison between Arabic and Chinese, English, and (language-agnostic) linguistic concepts.

People have been asking us for a programming site for a while. Friday we launched Software Development, which has a slow start so far presumably because of the weekend. We wouldn't normally launch on a Friday, but this was the best timing for the SRE-type who would be keeping an eye on things for the first few days. Its scope is broad; we're planning for spin-offs from the start but we're starting with one big tent rather than creating specialized communities that struggle more to achieve critical mass.

Now we have to get the word out. I have a draft of the next newsletter for our mailing list, so that should go out soon.

(Our other communities: Writing, Outdoors, Photography & Video, Scientific Speculation, Cooking, Electrical Engineering, and the "town hall", Meta.)

Garden thief!

On Tuesday I hit peak tomato, harvesting 22 (!) cherry tomatoes. There were several more that were almost ripe that I expected to pick the next day.

But the next day they were gone, all of them. I found the half-eaten carcass of one green tomato on the ground. I couldn't tell what ate it. I wonder if it was the rabbit I saw when I went out Tuesday evening to harvest some basil.

rabbit on steps

Read more…