Cincinnati Chili Experiment!

If you’ve ever heard of Cincinnati Chili you probably know it’s not really chili. It is neither the bean heavy stew or the meat and spice version. It is however delicious and I haven’t had it in ages. You can do an internet search, but in short it’s a meat and spice heavy sauce served over pasta, almost always spaghetti, with cheese (and often onions and beans). Wikipedia has a long section on how it is made in different “ways”.

My family used to make it at home but I never got the recipe and I think it is lost to time. But I found a recipe a while ago that fairly well matches my recollection of the ingredients. Tonight we made some (with heavy modifications for our cabinet and to make it vegetarian).

Some Books of 2015

I read some books this year! Even though I’ve been always busy and/or tired (working full time, then going home even if your partner does most of the household and family maintenance is still tiring). But I read some books this year and some I want to share.

Eggnog Pumpkin Pie

I made pumpkin pie for the first time this Thanksgiving with my mother-in-law using the Bittman recipe. She then sent me her preferred recipe. This is what I did to make a version with eggnog.

Coconut and Pineapple Mashed Sweet Potato (aka Yam) Casserole

A typical Thanksgiving dish is a sweet potato casserole made with mashed and spiced sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows and then baked. I’ve been making this variant using coconut and pineapple for topping (as well as coconut cream inside) for a few years. I’m doing it again this year, so I thought I’d post the recipe somewhere public.

iOS Hello World With No Interface Builder or Storyboard

Inspired by Julia Evans who I’ve been following awhile and unabashedly posts about things she’s just learning, I’m going to start posting about some stuff I’m just learning! I might not know it all yet and might make mistakes!! This is exciting!!!

Anyway, right now I am trying to build a pretty simple iOS application. The app I’m aiming for is one I could probably build as a web app (in html/css/javascript) pretty fast, but learning Xcode, Objective-C and the entire toolchain seems like a useful thing to learn. I also don’t have a lot of time to really dig in so my time is fractured so starting with a “simple” app seems smart. Anyway, I first tried to use Xcode’s Storyboard and Interface Builder. Storyboard and Interface Builder are both graphical tools built into Xcode (Apple’s IDE for iOS & Mac development) that manage some xml configuration files that under the covers define the views and controls in your screens. I found this kind of infuriating. I have done UI work before so the concepts are not completely strange to me (I’ve done: web programming, client and server, a pebble app, and Windows MFC and GTK apps a long time ago). The problem with Storyboard was that immediately I didn’t understand how what I did in the GUI changed what appeared when I tried running my app. So really I need a map and guides to let me dig in without hiding things that will infuriate me. Maybe later I can use Storyboard.

GHC and feelings on being experienced

I went to my first Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing a couple weeks ago. I graduated from school with a computer science degree in 2001 (and had a student programming job even before that). I’ve been working in industry ever since. Unsurprisingly, I had feelings about the experience. I spent most of the time there overwhelmed by all the people (not a fan of crowds and there were 11,000 attendees!). I talked to many excellent women, both young and more my age. I bonded with some of my women coworkers more than I had in the past. I felt a renewed sense of drive to do awesome things. But I was frustrated by how far we haven’t come and that GHC is necessary-useful at all. Many of the career and organizational change tracks I avoided — I’ve heard it all and don’t need to be reminded. But most of all I was glad to see so many different women in different places in life.

How to become internet famous for feeling persecuted on social media!

So you’ve looked at Twitter and you’ve read through a few angry social justice hash tags and you’ve decided being the target of that is definitely right for you. The following “how-to” guide will make it more likely that you can join venture capitalists, academics, CEOs, politicians and many other famous (and infamous) people on the front page of Gawker!

Shiny technology!

I’ve been playing with Octopress 3 off and on for a few weeks. Finally my theme and available plugins are such that it’s close enough and I can move onto much newer versions of everything. I ended up removing a fair bit of stuff - the sidebars, all the social media plugins, etc. There’s no longer any javascript other than the disqus stuff to pull in comments.

In the process, I ended up forking the demo Octopress theme and creating a trivial plugin for doing disqus comments. I don’t really understand Octopress (or Jekyll) to be honest, but I’m slowly learning.

In other shiny technology news, I finally made a Pebble watch app! You can see the source on github. We’re big fans of the KEXP radio station and listen with a real radio (not streaming). Regularly we want to know “what song is that?” but can’t get to our computers or phones fast enough. So this app will show the current track on the watch. Shiny!

The technology Pebble offers to do this is excellent. I didn’t have to setup the toolchain locally on my Mac and instead used Cloud Pebble which let me do everything in a browser including (via the Pebble app on my phone) install the application. For this app, there’s a bit that runs on the watch itself (written in C) which controls layout, appearance, any timing, button interactions etc. Then there’s a piece written in Javascript that runs in a sandbox within the Pebble iOS app: this is the part that actually contacts KEXP’s servers. Their C SDK is pretty clean and easy to understand and I spent more time futzing with the Javascript than anything. Once I convert the app to use the approved playlist API, I’m going to put it in the Pebble app store.

The birth of my daughter is not a disability

The birth of my daughter is not a disability. But that’s how I was being paid the past two months. I’m lucky. My employer offers paid maternity leave (but not paternity leave so I can’t in good conscience call it parental leave1). Most parents in the United States aren’t so lucky and have to make do with unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and paid vacation2. But when I first looked into what my employer offered, I discovered my leave was paid for under the company’s short-term disability insurance. My first reaction was anger. How dare people call my pregnancy and new baby a disability! My child is not the same as breaking a leg or getting sick! Short-term disabilities are by definition abnormal and undesired events.

Once I cooled down, I acknowledged that funding parental leave through the short-term disability insurance policy makes sense. As far as an employer is concerned, time off after birth is a disability. I can’t (or don’t want to) work. Competitive employers want to offer maternity leave, but they have to pay for it somehow. Only a few states offer a normalized way of paying for parental leave (for example, California). So as far as I can tell, the majority of employers who offer paid parental leave use short-term disability policies to pay for it.

Still, the word is offensive. My daughter is not a disability. My body is not a disability. The necessary process by which the next generation is created is not a disability.


  1. In keeping with my belief that all parents should routinely take leave, I prefer to refer to leave taken to take care of a new child as “parental” leave not “maternity” or “paternity” leave

  2. The majority of women in the United States take fewer than eight weeks of leave after giving birth. The overwhelming majority of men take fewer than two weeks. Much of this is cobbled together with paid vacation time and unpaid time as only a minority of employees (according to the Department of Labor survey have paid maternity or paternity leave.

Breastfeeding is not compatible with the American workplace

I am “supposed” to exclusively feed my daughter breast milk until she is six months old. After that, most of her nutrition should still come from breast milk with solid foods added gradually until she is one year old. That’s according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The World Health Organization recommends continuing to breastfeed until the child is two years old. Breastfeeding is recommended for a long list of health reasons including reduced rates of obesity, asthma and type 2 diabetes as well as likely reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Why wouldn’t you breastfeed if you can?