On Garlic

“Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic cut too long ago and garlic that has been tragically smashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all disgusting. Please treat your garlic with respect. Sliver it for pasta, like you saw in Goodfellas; don’t burn it. Smash it, with the flat of your knife blade if you like, but don’t put it through a press. I don’t know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain’t garlic. And try roasting garlic. It gets mellower and sweeter if you roast it whole, still on the clove, to be squeezed out later when it’s soft and brown. Nothing will permeate your food more irrevocably and irreparably than burnt or rancid garlic. Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”

Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

If this resonates with you, you might love Sri Lankan Garlic Curry

Portrait of Hotto Enmyo Kokushi

Portrait of Hotto Enmyo Kokushi

This beautiful piece was sculpted in Japan around the 13th century and is about three feet tall. The subject is a Zen Buddhist monk Shinchi Kakushin, who lived till the ripe old age of 95. After his death, he was given the title “perfectly awakened national teacher of the Dharma lamp” which is what “Hotto Enmyo Kokushi” means.

It’s at the Cleveland Museum of art. More info here.

Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One’s Books by Georges Perec B+

'Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One''s Books' by Georges Perec

I remember complaining about having too many books to read at The Mill (RIP) in Iowa City, and getting a weary “We know” to my “Did you know the Japanese have a word for this?”

I remember telling them I’d resolved to have no more than, say, a hundred books on my shelves at any given time, and them telling me about an essay (or at least I think it’s an essay) in this book.

I’ve never come by anything by him before. Reading him is like watching a bee bob and weave and float around and just be and have fun. Words1 and ideas, lists and taxonomies: It’s a lot of serious whimsy.

Even if Georges Perec had not written a novel without the letter “E”—“La disparition,” later rendered into “E”-less English as “A Void”—he would still be one of the most unusual writers of the twentieth century. Among his works are a treatise on the board game Go, a radio play about a machine that analyzes poetry, an autobiography cast in the form of a novel about a city of athletes, an approximately twelve-hundred-word palindrome, a crypto-Marxist anatomy of consumerist Paris, a scrupulously researched history of a wholly fictional painting, a deeply eccentric bucket list (“buy a number of domestic appliances” and “travel by submarine” are among the entries), a memoir composed of four hundred and eighty stand-alone sentences that all begin “I remember,” a novella in which the only vowel used is “E,” a lyric study of Ellis Island, and, from 1976 until his death from cancer, in 1982, a weekly crossword puzzle for the newspaper Le Point. It would be hard to disagree with Italo Calvino that Perec “bears absolutely no resemblance to anyone else,” or with Perec himself, who said, in an interview a few years before his death, that he had never written the same thing twice.

Paul Grimstad, The Absolute Originality of Georges Perec, The New Yorker
  1. Translated from French but still. ↩︎

“The Dance Around the May Pole”

I bought this print at a thrift store a decade ago because it looked ‘nice’ and warm and I loved the colors. It’s an innocent celebration at a glance and from a distance, and a total bacchanal when you examine its scenes up close.

The Dance Around the May Pole by Peter Bruegel

I never knew who painted it until now. It’s Pieter Bruegel the Elder (not to be confused with the Younger) who “was the most significant artist of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, a painter and printmaker from Brabant, known for his landscapes and peasant scenes (so called genre painting); he was a pioneer in making both types of subject the focus in large paintings.” (Source.) I’m glad that’s settled.

Enterprise Software - A Camel is a Horse Designed by Committee by Arvind Narayanan

The point is, some products are sold directly to the end user, and are forced to prioritize usability. Other products are sold to an intermediary whose concerns are typically different from the user’s needs. Such products don’t HAVE to end up as unusable garbage, but usually do.

Jira and Confluence, which I use at work, come to mind as formerly amazing products which have gone down the shitter with unnecessary Enterprise™ feature-bloat over the past few years. I wonder if there’s a way out of this mire (maybe start saying “No”?) Until then, #jobsecurity I guess.

Peace Lily are Hard to Maintain

I have a dying peace lily. I’m a bit attached to it and don’t know that I’ll be able to save it. Searching the internet for any hope led me to this post (cached) which made me feel slightly better about my inexperience.

The first mistake is relying upon the plant’s visual cue that needs water: the leaves droop. But, as the post notes, this can happen when they’re both over and under-watered!

[…] This would be a good indicator of when to water, except that by the time things reach the point of laying flat, damage has been done: the roots die back slightly each time this happens, and if it happens often enough, it will eventually fail to come back at all.

[…] it’s difficult to get the watering just right. […] If it’s too wet, there’s a tendency for plants to rot where they sit, except that they do it in such a way that you don’t necessarily realize what’s going on. One day you go to pull off a dead leaf, and a whole rootless plant comes out. This will generally not be salvageable. To make things trickier, the plant (like a lot of other plants) responds to being too wet by – you guessed it – drooping, which would make an inexperienced grower think that it needs more water.

I think I ruined mine by transferring it to a larger pot, thinking I was ‘suffocating’ it in a smaller one.

However, it’s been my experience that, nine times out of ten, a peace lily with black leaf edges is suffering from root suffocation, either because its soil has broken down and compacted, or because part of the soil never gets to dry out. Especially in a very large pot, and especially especially in a plant that’s been overpotted (put in a pot that’s too large for the plant), and especially especially especially in a plant that’s in a very large pot, too big for the plant, with no drainage hole, the top of the soil can dry out while everything after the top three inches is soaking wet.

Contrary to marketing material, they are not easy beginner plants:

In the time I’ve been at Garden Web (since Dec. 2006), I’ve seen more people post about issues with their peace lilies than any other plant, no contest: too many marketers think that the only important thing about a plant is how much light it needs. It’s true that Spathiphyllum doesn’t require a lot of light; that doesn’t make it the best plant for you, any more than knowing Jennifer Anniston’s name makes her your best friend.

So what does one do?

Common sense is important. If your plant is droopy and the soil feels wet, the plant is obviously not drooping because it’s too dry: don’t give it water. If the plant looks fine and the soil feels dry, the plant doesn’t need water just because the soil is dry: wait for the leaves to get a little limp first. Spathiphyllums are nothing if not good communicators.

And don’t worry about humidity. And use progressively larger pots. I think mine is too far gone at this point 😔

The Bieber of Comic Sans

From an interview with Vincent Connare, creator of Comic Sans:

Q. What do you think of comic sans’ detractors?

A. I think most of them secretly like Comic Sans — or at least wish they had made it. Interesting fact: the main designer at Twitter tweeted that the most server space is used by complaints about: first, airlines; second, Comic Sans; and third, Justin Bieber. So not even The Bieber can beat Comic Sans!

Here’s the tweet he’s talking about (it’s from 2010.) Also:

Regular people who are not typographers or graphic designers choose Comic Sans because they like it, it’s as simple as that. Comic Sans isn’t complicated, it isn’t sophisticated, it isn’t the same old text typeface like in a newspaper. It’s just fun — and that ‘s why people like it.

I tend to ignore gatekeeping bullshit when it comes my typographical loves 😛 And from that NYTimes article, emphasis mine:

“It’s like, ‘Not only am I going to refuse to submit these documents, but I’m going to use a typeface that doesn’t submit to the solemnity of the law, and Congress and public institutions,” said Michael Bierut, a partner at the design firm Pentagram. “Or maybe he just likes Comic Sans. It’s hard to say. Few typefaces are this freighted with public opinion.”

I think these are the final words on the matter from the creator himself:

If you love Comic Sans you don’t know much about typography. And if you hate Comic Sans you need a new hobby.

Plurals in Python

>>> n = 0
>>> print "%d item%s" % (n, "s"[n==1:])
0 items
>>> n = 1
>>> print "%d item%s" % (n, "s"[n==1:])
1 item
>>> n = 2
>>> print "%d item%s" % (n, "s"[n==1:])
2 items

# If you might want to print negative items, add abs to the test:
>>> n = -1
>>> print "%d item%s" % (n, "s"[abs(n)==1:])
2 items

# If a word has irregular plural morphology, use a list:
>>> n=1
>>> print "%d %s" % (n, ['abacus','abaci'][n!=1])
1 abacus
>>> n=2
>>> print "%d %s" % (n, ['abacus','abaci'][n!=1])
2 abaci

Source.