Tag Archives: 5Things

5things: 3 Apr 2012

Green Graffiti
Did you know if you blend some moss with buttermilk, and then paint it on a brick wall very precisely, you can make a stunning green graffiti? There are more examples of ‘green graffitis’ in the slide show, but the moss one is my fave.

Chocolate caramel tart
I can vouch for the deliciousness of this Chocolate tart, with chocolate pastry, caramel filling and ganache topping. People rave.

Gilian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred
In ironic proximity to the chocolate tart, I will recommend Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred, a fitness video nwgitahi04@amherst.edu very kindly shared with me. Both Gene and I did the easy version today, and to our surprise we were both sweaty in 20 minutes. I like it because…is only 20 minutes, but she packs in cardio, strength and a bit of abs. That’s a lot of variety. Also, Michaels explains the moves quite well and really keeps the energy up.

Yet another crafty thing I probably won’t do
But hey, it’s so clever and cute! Using chalkboard paint on mason jars to make reusable labels!

Yesterday’s Enterprise
I would like to endorse a classic episode Star Trek, TNG that Gene and I recently rediscovered as we work through all the TNG episodes on Netflix. In an alternate universe the Federation and the Klingon Empire are not allies…but at war, and the Klingons are winning. The production team did a stunning job of presenting an alternate version of the Enterprise as a Battleship…everything is familiar…but wrong. The amount of emotional resonance contained in this episode is amazing because we got to see characters we already know and love under completely novel conditions. I cheered when Denise Crosby’s character Tasha Yar was killed off early in the 2nd season. But her reprise of her role as a parallel universe Tasha was just touching and perfect.

5things: 2 Apr 2012

Tips for nomads
Travel tips are usually incredibly mundane. These are good because they obviously came from her personal experiences, are fun to read, and I’m pretty sure would come in handy for me one day. One thing I am in absolute agreement with her about…traveling alone is not lonely because it’s a great way to meet people.

White until proven black
Alana’s tweet was not the most offensive or nakedly racist of the bunch (that award could go to Cliff Kigar, who dropped the N-bomb, or to @GagasAlexander, who complained of “some ugly little girl with nappy…hair.”) but perhaps the most telling. “Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the little blonde innocent girl you picture,” she wrote. She cc’ed a friend on the tweet, @EganMcCoy.

How overturning Obamacare could lead to Single Payer
I can only hope, as I watch the freakish Supreme Court proceedings (Broccoli broccoli broccoli). It pisses me off to have to defend the individual mandate. It was a Republican idea and it is inferior to the solution pretty much every affluent or semi-affluent country has figured out…single payer universal healthcare, or at least a strong public option in competition with
private care.

Marques Toliver — Deep in my heart
Ooh! This song gives me goosebumps the very first time I heard it. Oh and by the way, the Mahogony Session in general seem to be awesome. It’s a series of live recordings done exclusively for a music blog called The Mahogony Blog. The musicians tend to be acoustic, in nature, strong depth of field, so that everything around them is artistically blurry.

PVC pipe shoe rack
I want this shoe rack made out of sections of big PVC pipe stuck together It looks great, doesn’t seem hard to do, and is actually practical. In general, whynotdoityourself.tumblr.com seems like they have decent projects.

5things: 31 Mar 2012

8 Tracks
Stephen works at this start-up as a “Finance DJ” which is their way of saying accounting person, I guess. It looks interesting and I’ll probably sign up. You make music collections like you used to make mixed tapes. Then you find and favorite other mixes.

George H.W. Bush, a.k.a. “Rubbers”
Did you know that George H.W. Bush was so pro-family planning back in the day that he sent Planned Parenthood a glowing letter congratulating them on a new stamp commemorating Margaret Sanger? In fact, he was so obsessed with family planning, his nickname in congress was “Rubbers.”

Odesk was recommended to me as a good place to get surprisingly decent contractors for all sorts of skilled web stuff. It seems like they make the process very easy and very legit (taking care of tax forms and all). Definitely a service I’m keeping an eye on.

If Shakespeare wrote today’s music…
There are only two, which is not enough. Cee-lo Green’s “Fuck You” and Daft Punk’s “Around the World” reimagined in iambic pentameter.

Car that drives itself
It is amazing to see this self-driving car in action. I hate driving. I’m a terrible driver and if Google some how make this car happen for realsies, I will love it again.

A few things that are more likely than winning the Mega Millions
Being in a plane crash this year. Being killed by a vending machine. If you are a Floridian, being killed through contact with a venomous snake or lizard.

Chuck the Boxer welcomes soldier home
There is a whole bunch of youtube videos that is basically returning soldiers getting exuberantly welcomed home by their huge dogs going nuts after a long deployment. They’re like crack to me. The mixture of dogs, emotion and that slight reminder of mortality in the background (soldiers don’t always come home) gets me every time. This is a good example of the genre. The dog is big and exuberant. The soldier is hunky. And as always there is the off-screen female voice directing it all.

Healthcare isn’t broccoli
I haven’t the heart to go into the latest travails of Obamacare in the supreme court. So just read Paul Krugman. When people choose not to buy broccoli, they don’t make broccoli unavailable to those who want it. But when people don’t buy health insurance until they get sick — which is what happens in the absence of a mandate — the resulting worsening of the risk pool makes insurance more expensive, and often unaffordable, for those who remain. As a result, unregulated health insurance basically doesn’t work, and never has.

5Things: 28 Mar 2012

How can I not link to Inkling? I am cheering them on to disrupt the hell out of the textbook market, not just because Josh is nice but because carrying heavy-ass/expensive-ass/clunky-ass textbooks are a liability for everyone except textbook publishers.

No (paid) Apps for you!
One piece of app-related information I was able to share with Josh…not that it’s all that useful. Google has suspended Android Marketplace in Taiwan because of a disagreement with the Taipei City Government over the return period of apps. This seems like a lose-lose-lose to everyone concerned and I do know Taiwanese friends who are not buying android phones because of this situation.

Minimum Viable Product
The idea is…deploy first, code later. In the meantime, record how much interest there is in your product and shape it accordingly. Basically, do it before you get it done. Another one I have to think on for a bit and absorb.

Things that seem normal when you live alone
Hilarious. True. And more relevant than ever as more Americans live forever alooooone. Also, girl farts on camera while doing a rendition of “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog”.

Saw this on George Takei’s FB profile. I didn’t get it at all. Then suddenly, I DID!

5Things: 27 Mar 2012

Walking while black
The Trayvon Martin case wasn’t just about Trayvon Martin. His tragic story is resonant because many many many black people have experienced being perceived as suspect as a result of the color of their skin. Here’s the ‘walking while black’ stories of a female journalist. They’re pretty hilarious, which helps the horror of it all go down.

Bella’s mittens
kleahey03@planworld.edu and I are knitting these mittens from Ravelry. They look lovely. Anybody interested in a planworld knit-along? I’m knitting them in red so that people won’t think I’m deliberately knitting them to look like Bella from Twilight.

How to find a mentor
I’m at a point where I’m comfortable with networking among my peers, but the thought of approaching someone way ahead of the game still frightens me. And yet that is part of what successful people do. I love this video because this woman breaks down the process in a way that is very reassuring. Basically, grow a thicker skin because you get nothing if you don’t try; remember that successful people didn’t get where they are by being unresponsive, probably; be careful when asking favors to make it really count and finally remember one day it might be you who might be able to help your mentor in some way.

The cult of Done
I’m putting this on 5 things not as an endorsement, necessarily, but as a good description of the philosophy I find surrounding app development/start-ups. It’s one part liberating, one part intimidating and one part facile in a way I dislike. Hmm.

With FaceBook Friends like these…
A Taiwanese woman announces that she was going to kill herself on FaceBook. Then she does it by burning charcoal in her room. As she slowly perished from CO2 poisoning, she kept chatting with friends on facebook and even uploading pictures of the burning charcoal. This went on for about an hour. Then she died. Nobody picked up the phone to call the police. She’s the Kitty Genovese of our day.

5Things: 26 Mar 2012

Making it in the Middle Ages
Just one of the fascinating things I learned talking with Bitsy was about the research of Greg Clark. He looked at common English surnames such as “Smith”, which arose from lower-class professions and tracked how long it took for these names to disperse themselves upwards in society. This was a most ingenious way of measuring social mobility. And the truly unexpected finding is, there might have been a lot more social mobility in the Middle Ages than we expected, and less of it nowdays than we’d think.

Queen Bess’ English
Talking about the days of yore, I’ve heard before that the English of Elizabethan times sounded nothing like the contemporary British accent, and perhaps would have more in common with certain sounds we associate with Appalachia. Well, that was kind of hard for me to imagine, but I totally got it after hearing Shakespeare performed in this re-created accent. It’s really very interesting as a sound…a bit archaic, yes, but also intimate and understandable…far less unapproachable than the plummy tones of what we think of as the ‘Shakespearean’ accent.

The Big Cat lady
Once in a while, you come across somebody doing something on the internets that is inadvisable, dangerous, stupid but just so freaking cool. Like this lady in South Africa who shares her house with four cheetahs, five lions and two tigers. That picture of her in bed with the cheetahs…oh!

The Economics of Panem
Matt Yglesias was one of my favorite political economics bloggers ever. He’s gone to Slate and suffered a bit, I think, by bending to Slate’s contrarian clever-clogs house style. But this piece tie-ing in two hot commodities, The Hunger Games movie and the buzzy new book Why Nations fail is pretty good.

So you want to write an app?
I am trying to bring a mobile app to market. tmharada04@amherst.edu actually writes them for a living. It behooves me to listen to what it is he has to say about the matter. The key paragraph: “…know that getting to the final successful solution will be an iterative process, in inverse proportion to the amount of knowledge you have at the start. That is, if you already have a lot of domain-specific or app-development knowledge, you can afford to be more upfront in terms of planning (more intense iterations, potentially fewer of them). If you don’t have a lot of knowledge to start with, you can almost plan that you will have several major pivots during your own ‘learning’ process.” This makes sense to me…you write in drafts, draw preliminary studies before starting an oil paintings…almost always in all creative endeavors committing yourself to too many details too early on guarantees a misshapen product. I might re-evaluate my plan to pin down the prototype to the last pixel before going to a developer.

5Things: 24 Mar 2012 – Favorite Wines Edition

Bommarito Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Let’s not save the best for last: My favorite wine in the world for the past six months has been the Bommarito Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. I can say that because, at $20 a bottle, it’s one I’ve been able to go back to again and again. And I’ve loved it again and again and could not make myself fall out of love, it seems, even though I’m desperate to branch out a bit. At this price point, its excellence is exceptional. Don’t let the fact that it’s in a screw top bottle scare you off. When you put this in your mouth the taste is rich (dare I say expensive) and lingering, almost a little thick. Even though the flavor is big, there is no overbearing tannin or acidity. Stands up beautifully to assertively flavored food. I’ve not seen it anywhere but the Napa Valley Winery Exchange, which is linked above. Buy it from them if you live in the Bay area (mention you’re local to get a 10% discount) or else order it online.

Educated Guess Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
It seems in moving to California, I’ve fallen hard for the Napa Valley cabs, because my second favorite wine now is also a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, it’s also at a similar price point and also recommended to me by the (always excellent) staff at the Napa Valley Winery Exchange. And I love Educated Guess too for the same kind of lingering, flavorsome richness that you get with the Bommarito. But it is different in ways I appreciate too…it’s lighter in body, livelier in its fruitiness. It’s the cherry to the bommarito’s raisin. Juicy rather than jammy. And this is a shallow point, but I also love the elegantly scienc-ey label design on this one.

Quivera Wines
My third recommendation is not a wine but a winery, Quivera Wines in Sonoma Valley. I discovered this during my camping/leonids gazing/winetasting trip to Healdsburg with the twins last year. We must have hit six or seven wineries in a day. Some had great wines. Others beautiful surroundings, or interesting food. Quivera was the only one in my opinion that had the whole package, head and shoulders above the rest. They follow biodynamic growing principles at Quivera, which is like organic but also tinged with witchy magic…fertilizing by the phase of the moon, that sort of thing. I’m not a believer in the mysticism, but I am a believer in what’s in the bottle. That day, I bought their Fig Leaf Sauvignon Blanc and one of the zinfandels (which I frankly don’t even remember anymore). But funnily enough the wine I really badly want to taste again was one I liked but judged to be too weird to buy in the tasting room…50% Sauvignon blanc, 50% Gewurztraminer. Gewurztraminer is a grape for dessert wine. Very sweet, with a bouquet of lychees. Cut with 50% Sauvignon Blanc, the sweetness was less intense and the wine becomes much more drinkable, but the intoxicating perfume was still there. After our tasting, we sat at one of the tables in their beautiful courtyard to eat a picnic of oozing cheeses, crisp armenian cucumbers, bread purchased at a local bakery and precious dry creek stone fruits (peaches and plums) at the peak of their perfection. An elegant, husky-voiced older lady who worked at Quivera saw us and, with incredible graciousness, gave us all each another pour of the Sauvignon blanc-Gewurztraminer as we ate because she said it would compliment what we had to eat perfectly. “Oops,” she winked, as she poured, generously nudging a little extra into the glass. And she was right. With the wine, the flavor from the fruit and cheese just bloomed. There was some sort of crazy magical synergy between the sun, the fruit and the wine that just made that little impromptu picnic a crystalized, indelible moment of pleasure in my mind.

The super-desserty white wines like the Sauvignon blanc-Gewurztraminer above are an exception, but in general my taste in white wine is for something minimalist and uncomplicated. In reds, I seek richness, balance, lingering flavor and delicious, bursting fruit over a sound, muted foundation of soft woodiness. In whites, I want refreshment. I love a little sharpness, a lot of green, herbaceousness. And I demand a very clean flavor profile with no overripe fruits and no off-putting acidity. The best are dryish with a hint of flintiness. I can’t think of one particular wine right now to recommend, but my favorite kind of white wine is Sancerre. Sancerre is a region in the Loire river valley in France that specializes in Sauvignon Blanc. You can find Sauvignon Blanc wines from all over the world, but the chalky marls of Sancerre does seem to produce an unique product. I don’t want my sauvignon blancs to be fruity, perfumed or oaked. I want it to be crisp. Vegetal. Just a little bit astringent on the tongue. I want Sancerre.

Vinho Verde
I want Sancerre. Preferably in Paris with some raw oysters, followed by a huge plate of choucroute garnie. But more often, what I have in my glass is Vinho Verde. This is because Sancerre doesn’t seem to be very well distributed in the US. When I find it, I don’t feel like it is value. Vinho Verde (literally, “green wine”) is an inexpensive, low-alcohol content wine made from slightly under-ripe grapes in Portugal. It is really completely different from Sancerre or indeed any other wine I can think of. But it kind of hits the spot, yeah. You can find Vinho Verde quite easily in the United States and it is a bargain, with most of the bottles priced $10 or well under. You drink it young, because it doesn’t age well. You drink it well-chilled, enjoying the slight effervescence prickling the inside of your mouth (not really enough CO2 to be described as a sparkling wine though.) You drink it liberally, because it’s just so easy.

5Things: 23 Mar 2012 – Cook it before you code it edition

I like the deliberately “sketchy” look of this quick wireframing tool (even though it is very unsuitable for my current purposes). It’s a reminder that you’re doing a quick mock-up and not to get too attached to initial decisions. You can quickly pull down pre-set elements from a scrolling top bar onto your design canvas and re-size and customize them to your heart’s desire. I think this would probably be a real good tool if you have a clear idea of the functionality of your app, but not the design. It might be less good if it is very important to you that your app looks a certain way, but need a tool to game out the user interaction in a compelling way.

This thing is a different beast from Balsamiq. For starters, it is much, much, much more powerful. I might buy it just to quickly make purdy-looking flow charts. I also like how it’s capable of making a prototype rather than a wireframe…I can imagine getting this to build a thing that almost fools you into thinking it’s the app itself, minus the music. Or even using this in conjunction with a video tool to make animatics that are indistinguishable from a video capture of the finished app. On the upside, this is good because it will cut down my communication load with programmers. There’s a trust issue here because I don’t really understand programming and so would be more comfortable with a tool that pins almost every decision down so I can just say to them…”do this! exactly this!”. On the downside, this means a heck of a lot of work is going into the prototyping, including learning how to use the prototyping tool. And perhaps I would end up over-working the prototype too early and waste valuable time and effort, or worse, become inflexible.

App Cooker
Yo dawg! I herd you like iPad apps so I put an iPad app to make iPad apps in you iPad so you can use an iPad app while you make an iPad app. OK, now that’s over, onto the review. I was skeptical about the App Cooker from the beginning because I don’t really like the iPad for creating content as much as I like it for consuming content. But maybe I’m wrong. Reviews are glowing. And if I am creating an iPad app, does it not behoove me to really get to grips with the outer limit of possibilities with this thing? Also, App Cooker appears to offer a host of tools to educate you on pricing your app and bringing it to market. Gimmicky? Useful? Well, it’s $24.99 only but now I’m also kind of closely guarding my time and I don’t know if I want to learn something that I won’t ultimately really use into the future.

Here’s another thought. What if the tool to make the mock-up is already on my computer? I’m linking here to a blogpost where the blogger creates a simple presentation that gives the illusion of being functional very easily using Keynote, which is like powerpoint but for Macs. A really important thing to consider is…I’ll be able to very easily add audio to my mockup. This is really really really important as the music and songs are an integral part of a storybook app for kids.

The incredibly hilariously unnecessary portmanteau neologism “pwireframing” simply means getting some graph paper and scissors out and making a physical mockup of your website. In my case, I will probably print out a bunch of iPad templates and doodle directly on that. It might not be a bad first step.

5Things: 22 Mar 2012

Fiverr is like taskrabbit for things that can be done over the internet. If you have a small task that is either routine enough for people to do in bulk or idiosyncratic enough for people to do at below market prices for fun, this is where to go. There’s a lot of social-media whoring there. Just don’t expect much for $5

A quick and dirty guide to pricing yourself as a freelancer
Double your regular hourly salary. But if you’re going to really jump into freelancing as a replacement for your job, try following this guide from LifeHacker to figure out how to cover your costs and build in a reasonable profit.

The 9 Habits of Highly Effective Complainers
Being an effective complainer can make your life better…and even make things a bit easier for those you’re complaining to. Don’t be angry…clearly identify your dissatisfaction and what could be done to redress it…and make sure you’re talking to someone who can get things done rather than kvetching in the general direction of some poor underling.

How to Avoid Time Confusion with Google Calender
Google calendar messed me up but good when I traveled across time zones because it moved all my appointments 15 hours when I changed time zones from Taipei Time to SF time (15 hours behind of Taipei). But when I made those appointments, I’ve already made them for SF time so they are now 15 hours in the future-er-er for no good reason. All this could have been avoided if I had a sassy gay friend…er…no, I mean, if I specified a time zone when I made those appointments. I still think that’s kind of a lame solution, but can’t think of a better one. BTW, all my past appointments in TPE are time shifted too, which is highly annoying.

China, Gamblers, Cambodia
Vast swathes of Cambodia is getting signed over to Chinese developers on outrageous terms and no concern for current inhabitants due to the irresponsibly permissive Cambodian government. It’s kind of sickening. “In the most recent deal, the Cambodian government sold off more than 130 square miles of a national park to a Chinese developer, Tianjin Union Development Group, which promises “extravagant feasting and revelry,” has already cut a 40-mile road through virgin forest that’s habitat to endangered tigers and elephants, and sent the people who lived in these lands for generations off packing.”

5Things: 18 Mar 2012

Bookmark this video and watch it whenever you feel like you’re just lacking that last little soupcon of courage to take the plunge. A little girl goes through nervousness, self-affirmation, abject terror, and finally determination before taking off on a ski jump. The calm little instruction “Go!” she says to herself before taking off is especially inspiring.

NPR’s On the Media
Does MST3K-style snark. It’s Media Scrutiny Theatre, you see. It’s shockingly unpopular (just hundreds of views on youtube), but I think they’re worth a yuk or three.

The highest-ranked Irish Dancer in the world is a Jewish biracial teen from Ohio. You should read the article and then google his dancing and marvel. I love the part about him explaining how he usually leaves out the Jewish part of his biography because it’s just too much for people to absorb on top of all the other ways in which he defies expectations.

An Ode to Alcohol
In another St. Paddy’s day related piece, a biologist writes a hilarious (and hopefully scientifically-accurate) ode to alcohol.

A Biologists Musical Ode to Alcohol
You know what they should come up with next? A scratch-n-sniff feature on tumblr so I can experience all the delightful scents chronicled in a single-sentence literary fashion by ljd.