Facebook privacy concerns?

In the introduction to Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, Andrew Postman wrote:

We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

Which is funny, because since the book was published in ’85, Neil Postman had to’ve been writing it in 1984! But is also terrifying, because look at the world.  Look at the news media.  Look at where the bulk of our time is spent.

Look at our brave new world.

Pink Lemonade Bar Cookies

Gathering the supplies to bake something in my kitchen is always an Adventure. If it had a name (and Adventures usually do), it would be something like “The Continuing Adventures of Foodicus Moldicus, or This Is Why I Can’t Have Nice Things During Summertime“.  I’ll buy fruit on Tuesday with the intention of making it into something tasty on Friday. By Thursday, it belongs to the mould.

I made bread two days ago. It’s the mould’s now.

What I am saying is, my kitchen needs a good scrub down with vinegar to kill whatever invisible mould keeps on eating my food before I can, and groceries like that need to be almost immediately used.

So I’ve been going on to my friends for weeks at this point about these Pink Lemonade Bars. About how good they look, and how I can imagine them in my mouth being delicious and how if I can not eat these I will die. And at almost every turn I am thwarted by buying groceries and then not getting to the baking part quick enough so my lemons and my raspberries end up in the trash.

But these lemon bars, they look like the most delicious thing on the planet, and before I go further, I should furnish you with two lists. Here is a short list of things I like to eat:

  1. Lemons
  2. Lemonade
  3. Raspberry/Strawberry/etc lemonade

And now a short list of things I do not like to eat:

  1. Lemon cookies
  2. Lemon bars
  3. Lemon-scented Pledge

But by god these bars looked amazing and I have to make them. So off to the grocery store it is, and I will report back in a couple months when I’ve finally remembered to make them!

Soup it to Me

Fall CSA share pickup was on Thursday! Even though this is my first fall share, I’ve determined that I fucking love them more than the summer ones.  Fall means root crops means potatoes and rutabagas and turnips and carrots meansSOUP.

I love soup. For the record.

I found a hearty root vegetable soup recipe at Epicurious and basically doubled it because I figured I had about double the amount of potato-rutabaga-turnip-carrot it called for. (I was incorrect about that, but whatever.)  Then I followed my own soup making method with their ingredients and made approximately a million quarts of soup.

A large stock pot full of orange-ish puréed soup-like liquid.

I like to call my method, “Chuck everything in a pot, cook until soft, purée the fuck out of it, eat.” It’s quite effective. And probably how you make baby food.

Then I realized I don’t like the taste of rutabagas or turnips. Whoops.  So, this soup is going to undergo severe changes before I actually eat it, including adding a shitload of cream and cheese to make something deliciously rich and hearty and also not tasting of turnip. Or rutabaga.

In case that picture above is not clear, that is a lot of soup. Way more than I could ever eat, so I immediately got out the pressure canner and started filling jars.  I went out briefly to grab another box of jars, and came back to find this:

A small grey kitten peering over the edge of a large pressure canner in a vaguely menacing way.

This is how she watches me, constantly, when I’m cooking. She just sits there. And stares. Over the edge. I’m kind of concerned she’s picturing how she’d cook me.

That is right. Ragnarök decided she was going to help me can things! Like a helpful cat in that way only cats and small children can be! I kept filling and hoping that she would get out on her own

A small grey and cream tabby kitten sitting in a large pressure canner with five pint jars in a circle on the edges staring at the camera. The kitten is staring, not the pint jars.

This kitten has no self preservation instincts whatsoever.

to no avail. That cat loves sitting in the pressure canner while I’m working in the kitchen, and apparently doesn’t  believe that “there are cans of soup on top of me” is a reason to vacate the premises. Although, to be fair, she probably couldn’t get out at that point, so I picked her up and moved her, but still, the internet.

But still.

So that is my adventure in soup making yesterday. Today: I feast!

A Knitting Gauge is a Funny Thing

I’m a serial project starter. I love new projects! There’s so much hope when you start a new project, like you have an exciting blank slate. (For the record, I feel the same way about starting new notebooks and new pens and the like. Blank page! Brand new pen! Things are going to be awesome.) But this means that I end up with lots of started projects and not very many finished projects.

I’ve gone and given myself a goal. Or a rule. Or a hellish restriction that I’ve already failed at least once.

No more new projects.


Because that is how many unfinished projects I have.

This means I’m going back and finding old projects to work on, and I’m learning a lot about the sort of knitter I used to be. It turns out, I did not learn how to knit and then stagnate the way that I sort of always thought that I have! I have been improving all along. I think. Here is what I have learned about myself:

I used to knit really really loosely.

I mean really loosely. I mean looser than your mom loosely. My gauge from 2009 is so wildly different from my gauge from 2012 that I’m not so sure that the same person is actually knitting these socks. They’re supposed to be knit on 2.5mm needles. I am pretty sure I was knitting them on 2.5mm needles. And yet, the needles that I have to use now to get the same size?







How is this even a thing.

A dark and light blue sock made of yarn.

Seriously. Size 1 to size 3 needles. How am I knitting two sizes tighter now??

Socks, Glorious Socks!

I, like many knitters, am having a love affair with knitting socks.

I don’t know when I first decided that knitting socks was the absolute shit, but I do know why: heels. Fiddly little heels with slipped stitches and short row turning and picking up twisted stitches at the edges.

There’s something innately satisfying about knitting a heel. Maybe because it’s a stretch of straight knitting after a long tube? Maybe it’s the way it’s a small, discrete part of the overall product with an easy-to-reach beginning and end

Maybe it’s just that I like having small goals to reach because it makes me feel productive, and “Finish the heel flap” and “turn the heel” are good ones.  I don’t like knitting toe up socks purely because I’ve yet to find a good way to turn a heel and knit a heel flap that are as satisfying as with top down socks.

The point is, I am having a love affair with knitting socks, and a hate affair with finishing socks.

People talk about second sock syndrome like it is a serious illness affecting thousands of knitters worldwide.  What they don’t talk about is foot syndrome, either because it’s a shameful disease, unlike the joke that SSS is, or because I’m the only one who has it.  I’m hoping it’s the former, but… There’s only one symptom.  I get to the middle of a foot on a sock, any sock, and I’ve suddenly lost the will to live.

You know that bit in The Phantom Tollbooth where the kid is stuck in the Doldrums? And is all apathetic and being a lazy bum? That’s what it feels like when I’ve hit the second half of the foot and the toe. This shit is never going to end. I am going to be knitting this sock forever and I am going to die knitting this sock. I am going to be a hundred years old and I will still be knitting this sock.

I am going to be a hundred years old and I am still going to be knitting this sock and fuck that.

So I quit the sock. I am done with this sock. I am going to move on to another sock, a sock that does not hate me, a sock that is not stuck in this horrific knitting black hole where it is four inches long no matter how much knitting I do on it. Because the next sock is going to be different. The next sock is going to be better. I am going to love the next sock like no other sock.

Spoiler alert: the next sock is no different.

So I have a bunch of socks that are almost completely finished, except I’m stuck on this ever growing portion left to knit. It’s a paralyzing mental Zeno’s Paradox (who I am sure was just trolling us all).

Tell me, the internet. Is anyone else affected by this horrid disease?

Blue and white yarn in the form of a mermaid tail sock.

Which is not to say that I do not force myself to finish socks. This is a lovely sock out of a pair I made for a friend, whose kid has now bogarted them. Because their feet are the same size. What.

MailChimp Autoresponder API stats

MailChimp’s API is great for getting/updating data about campaigns, lists, and users.  One would think that, because the API exposes so much campaign information, it would also be exposing autoresponder information, since they are just a type of campaign.

One would be sorely mistaken.

Recently, I needed to create a daily email report that would use MailChimp’s API to get the number of recipients for each autoresponder for that day.  It was going to be an easy project, up until I realized that MailChimp would let me access almost all of the information I needed – the campaigns, the segment criteria, the users – except for the information about who was going to receive the email that day.

This functionality is something that is offered on their site proper, though, so it is possible.  The “Who’ll Get This Next” link in the send settings of the autoresponder’s row on the autoresponder page will show who is going to get the email that day.  If no one fits the criteria for today, then the result set comes up empty, so “Who’ll Get This Next” should probably be called something like “Who’ll Get This Today,” but I’m not here to pick on their copy choices.

In any case, I needed to get the number of users who were going to receive an autoresponder sent out three days after they signed up for the newsletter, which meant I needed to figure out there signup date.  Because of the way the other merge vars were set up, it wasn’t clear which one of them was the signup date, or if any of them actually were.  (Read: I still have no idea.)

MailChimp’s API documentation is pretty great, and has examples for each function, but the examples don’t always cover every bit of available functionality, so it wasn’t until about the third time that I read the campaignSegmentTest function documentation that it finally clicked that the field ‘date’ they were talking about was the date a user signed up.  And, honestly, I found that whole section of the page kind of confusing at first, because the way the information was laid out didn’t make much sense to me.

But enough about my lack of reading comprehension.  For anyone else out there who is trying to figure out how to get the number of “Who’ll Get This Next” from their MailChimp autoresponder based on the signup date,  it turns out it is wicked simple.  My site is in PHP, so this is the PHP code to do it:

//This takes today's date in POSIX/Unix Time and subtracts three days from it, then converts that to a string in the format 'YYYY-MM-DD', which is the format that the date field for campaignSegmentTest requires.
$date = date('Y-m-d', strtotime('-3 days'));
//This creates a condition that the sign up date must equal the three-days-ago date just calculated
$signup_cond = array('field' => 'date', 'op' => 'eq', 'value' => $date);

This means that the full array to pass to campaignSegmentTest for a JSON call would look something like this:
  'list_id' => $the_list_id,
  'options' => array(
    'match' => 'all',
    'conditions' => array(

It seemed pretty dang complicated the first time I had to put it all together, but now I’ve started to get the hang of it… just as the project is ending.  I hope this helped someone else figure out how to get “Who’ll Get This Next” autoresponder numbers from MailChimp!

Kick-Ass Lavender Shortbread Cookies

It’s not often that I find myself wishing that I had smell-o-vision that I could broadcast to the world — my house more often smells of animals and old-man-soup1 than it does delicious things — but right now, if you could smell my kitchen…

I have an herb share with my CSA, and the other week it included cut lavender. Obviously, my first thought was “What the hell am I supposed to make with lavender is this even edible are they secretly trying to poison me oh god it’s a conspiracy!”

Then I came back down to earth and hit up the google machine, and found this recipe on Serious Eats for lavender shortbread cookies.  Which is approximately my favoritest type of cookie in the world. (The shortbread part, not the lavender part.)  So I put out a stick of butter yesterday — because surely six ounces of butter is about half a cup! — and then immediately got distracted doing the mountain of dishes that needed doing and forgot all about it until this morning.  Thank the gods I left the butter right next to the fridge, right?  Because fridges can work by osmosis, right?


Suffice to say, after a shower and a battle with my stand mixer, because it is heavy and I pulled every muscle in my upper body kayaking yesterday, I got to work making those cookies.  With lots of modifications because it turns out that half a cup of butter is not, in fact, six ounces (more like four) and why bother with powdered sugar when there’s honey in it anyway, and man do I even have cornstarch any more?

This, my friends, is my modified lavender shortbread cookie recipe.  They turn out just dry enough to be dipping cookies, because of the butter shortage.  The wick up just enough moisture to become soft and delicious, but not so much that they’re gross and soggy like most cookies. In fact, I would not even think about eating these without dipping them in something first, I am just saying.  I can verify that they’re delicious in hot chocolate, and have heard good things from coworkers about coffee.

I’ve not included yield because I have never found yields to be all that accurate, given how you have to obviously taste test the dough before turning it into cookies, and then taste test it again to make sure the first taste test wasn’t a fluke, and sometimes you want to make huge cookies and sometimes small cookies and and and

Kick-Ass Lavender Shortbread Cookies
Prep Time:

It took me 10 minutes to make the dough, because I was an idiot when I set the lavender to dry the other week and did not bother to take the… seeds? flowers? The lavender-y parts off the stem, so I had to do that. If you are smart, this is seriously something like a five minute recipe.

  • 1/2 c (1 stick) butter
  • 1/4 c delicious honey
  • 1/4 tsp arrowroot powder/cornstarch/thickening agent2
  • 1 Tbsp lavender3
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 c flour
  • water
  1. Cream together the butter, honey, and thickening agent
  2. Add the lavender, salt, and baking powder
  3. Add the flour
  4. If it’s all flaky and not coming together in a nice ball of dough, add water until it does
  5. Put it on plastic wrap, roll it into a cylinder and roll it up in the plastic wrap
  6. Refrigerate until it’s something you can cut4
  7. Preheat your oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  If you do not have parchment paper you are a sad, sad person and why are you even trying to make cookies? But I guess buttering the baking sheet would work too.
  8. Bake until done. The original recipe says 8 minutes. Mine took closer to 15, possibly because my gas oven is a thousand years old and I haven’t put a thermometer in there yet so I don’t know if the dial is accurate.
  9. Make some hot chocolate or coffee or get out a glass of milk.
  10. Dip and enjoy!
A field of purple lavender flowers.

Image by Mimova on Wikipedia.
Also can you image having to get all of the seed bits off that field by hand? D:

1 I had it at work one day, and one of my co-workers wandered into the kitchen and immediately went “Ew, what smells like old man?” Answer: Celery, an onion, and a lot of random vegetables cooked in just enough water to cover them and then puréed into a thick liquid. return

2 Let’s get some kitchen SCIENCE! all up in here! Substituting honey for sugar is wicked easy, most of the time. Take however much sugar you’re using (in this case, it was 1/2c) and divide it by four to get how much honey to use. Since 1/8c is the same as 2 Tbsp, I added the honey amounts together and added a quarter of a cup. There is your long winded explanation on how to do basic math. As for the thickening agent, commercial powdered sugar (which this recipe called for) has cornstarch in it. I have no idea why, but I’m sure it’s for a good reason. It’s a ratio of about 1 Tbsp to 1 cup, or 1:16, which is a terrifying-looking ratio when I think about trying to make it into real measurements. Since this called for 1/2c of powdered sugar, it needed 1 1/2tsp of cornstarch (or its equivalent since I don’t ever use cornstarch ever). Why then does the recipe only call for 1/4tsp? Because I am bad at math, that is why, and it came out fine anyway, so who cares stop asking questions. return

3 AKA 3tsp, for those of us who keep losing our tablespoons out of our measuring spoons no matter how many times we swear we are going to put it right back where it belongs after using it and not lose this one no really we mean it this time. return

4 I have no idea how long this actually takes beyond what the original recipe says, because I forgot I was making cookies until the next morning. Yes, this is an on-going theme in my life. return

Here, let me tell you a story…

I have thought long and hard about what I should post for the first post to my new blog.  I wanted it to be perfect.  To set the tone for the posts to come and to give me a good jumping off point into each of the sections I want to make.

Of course, I also wanted to keep my brother’s three-wheeler when I was thirteen, but my parents sold it anyway.

So here I am, forcing myself to make a first post just because the page has been empty for so long I’m starting to get twitchy about expectations and wasting my money and all that rot.  Originally, I intended this to be a knitting and spinning blog, to accompany the store I’m hoping to set up at some point.  But the more I thought about it, the more I kept going, “Oh, but I want to post about this!  And this!  And this too!”

Eventually, I realized that the easiest way to deal with all my wants was to separate the blog into sections, with the main blog having everything, and then there being a separate collection/tag and link for the knitting and spinning, for the computers and technology, for the homesteading, for the writing, for whatever else I suddenly decide I need to post that doesn’t mesh with any of those things.

As though I have a life beyond those things.

So here goes my grand experiment, my attempt to keep up with a blog even though I’ve never been able to do that before.  Come stay a spell, and  I promise I’ll try to keep petri dishes out of the fridge and strange liquids out of the tub.

The apple trees are blossoming in my parents' backyard.