Week of March 7

More signs of spring: Crocuses are blooming, early signs are showing of the very beginnings of peonies, and when it was 60F one night I could hear the frogs in the woods at dusk.

It is time to start seeds for tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos. We plan to start ours this weekend. Better get out Clyde’s Garden Planner. Speaking of starting seeds, I think I’m going to use the coffee cherries from my coffee plants to start new ones. There aren’t enough to roast, so perhaps I’ll grow some more plants and give them to friends.

I reconnected with some old friends this week. I had three different calls with friends on three different days and came out of each feeling lighter. If anyone else wants to catch up, email me and let’s video chat over lunch!

This has been a tough week for Charlie. According to Wonder Weeks he should be going through a leap where he has a better understanding of relationships and has a lot of separation anxiety when we are not holding him. During particularly tough days, I’m reminding myself of something Amanda said recently: “He can be tiring but we’re all still figuring each other out. What matters is the way he lays his sleepy head on your shoulder or looks up at you with his gummy smile.”

We had some nice walks this week. He is able to sit up on his own in the stroller without the car seat now, so he can face forward and see the world. He loves it.

The Indie Microblogging book is live! I backed the Kickstarter in 2017 and was part of the micro.blog community for a couple years. I stopped posting to my microblog when I consolidated everything under one URL, but now I’m thinking it is time to set one back up. I think I’ll use Jeremy Felt’s Shortnotes plugin to power it. Before I do, I’m going to see if there is a filter to change the name. I already call my digital garden Chuck’s Notes, so I’d want to call this something different.

Speaking of shortform content, Instagram is getting worse and worse. I’m getting tons of ads and sponsored content, and the targeting is completely off for me. I’m getting ads for women’s clothing, sporting goods, meme accounts, and crappy TV shows that I’ll never watch. Twitter was pretty bad until I started using Tweetbot, a third party Twitter app, which allowed me to go back to the chronological timeline without ads or “recommended” content.

And speaking of things getting worse, I’ve been inundated with spam calls for student loan scams lately. I don’t even have student loans! I’m thinking about finding an app to send all numbers not in my contacts to voicemail.

The Seatbelt Rule for Judgement from Danny Guo (h/t the Studio Neat Gazette):

My willingness to judge something should be proportional to how much I know about it.

Danny Guo

John McPhee has published 29 books, regularly writes for the New Yorker, and won a Pulitzer Prize, yet he rarely writes more than 500 words a day. (h/t Cal Newport and Eric Davis)

“People say to me, ‘Oh, you’re so prolific’…God, it doesn’t feel like it—nothing like it.  But, you know, you put an ounce in a bucket each day, you get a quart.”

John McPhee

This Turmeric-Black Pepper Chicken With Asparagus was really tasty and fast to make. We ate it over quinoa with a side salad. We will definitely make it again!

This cinnamon bread recipe is pretty simple to make and is tasty. I’m going to experiment with adding a little sugar to the dough and trying out some different filling variations to dial it in. I didn’t use an egg wash to bind the filling because we had eaten the last of our eggs an hour before for breakfast, but just water worked okay and the loaf didn’t have any gapping problems.

My cousin Matt got me a bottle of Weller Special Reserve for Christmas, which I’m enjoying. Since it is made at the same distillery as Pappy van Winkle, rumor has it that Weller Special Reserve is bottled from the barrels that didn’t quite make the cut for Pappy 12 year, but with a price point $50 lower.

We’ve been drinking Calvados since 2014, when Jeffrey at Rochambeau persuaded me to buy a bottle, but like all types of French alcohol, I’ve been confused by the various AOC classifications for Calvados. Imbibe recently published an explainer, and I was pleased to find that we have a bottle of Pays d’Auge in the cabinet.

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Wok book is out! As with all things Kenji, it is highly recommended. I’ve cooked more meals from his recipes than any other author. I’ve already leafed though this book and have half a dozen things I want to try out.

Speaking of J. Kenji, my friend Jon asked me what sodium nitrite does in the corned beef brine, and a Serious Eats article from Kenji answered the question for me:

So how do nitrites work to preserve meat? First off, they are flavorful. They give hams and corned beef their characteristic tang. It also inhibits the growth of the few types of bacteria that are tolerant of salty environments. Finally, it helps preserve color.

We all know that meat turns from red to brown as the main muscle pigment myoglobin oxidizes and turns into metmyoglobin, a reaction catalyzed by free iron atoms in the meat, right? (I mean, who doesn’t?). Well, when nitrites react with meat, they form nitric oxide (that’s nitrogen with but a single oxygen molecule), which in turn bonds with the iron, thus preventing the reaction that transforms myoglobin into metmyoglobin, allowing beef (or ham) to retain its deep pink color, even when fully cooked.

Interestingly enough, this is the exact same reaction that occurs with barbecued meats to form the pink smoke ring around their edges. But that’s neither here nor there.


The same article also suggests dry curing corned beef instead of brining it. I’m already brining mine, but I might dry cure it next year!

I wrote a master study tutorial for one of Vera Molnar’s works using p5.js this week. I intend to do more of these because it helps me learn p5 and it helps other people who are getting started, too. Other artists I want to explore: Sol LeWitt, Herbert Franke, Frieder Nake, Michael Noll, Georg Nees, Josef Albers, Manfred Mohr.

Minified javascript is a pet peeve of mine. It is kind of like DRM for code: You can get around it, but it is annoying and takes lots of time to reverse the function name assignments. I’ve learned so much from reading other people’s code that I feel like I need to do other people a solid and not minify my own. Whenever you can, ship your unminified code to production. When build tools make that prohibitive, share the unminified version on GitHub.

Speaking of poking around in other people’s code, here is a great explainer on how to use undocumented APIs from Julia Evans.

12ft.io is a great resource for getting around paywalls. It pulls the cached version from Google’s crawlers. Brilliant.

What I’m listening to this week:

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