Help Manton Hit His Indie Microblogging Stretch Goal

Manton Reece has four days to go on his “Indie Microblogging” Kickstarter, and he still needs our help. He’s trying to create an ad-free open platform for microblogging where people own their own data and can take it where they please. Right now he’s at $68,620 of his original $10,000 goal — which is fantastic. Manton has built safety into the platform with a feature he calls “Safe Replies” to fight abuse, but if he reaches his stretch goal of $80,000 he can hire community manager to make the service even better:

If the Kickstarter reaches $80,000, I will use some of the money to make my very first part-time hire for Micro.blog: a community manager. The community manager will help set the tone for the service, work on documentation and best practices, and be responsible for curation when Safe Replies fails to automatically catch emerging problems.

I’m going to up the amount that I’m in for. If you haven’t already pledged to help — and you can — you should.

Stupid Rice Cooker Tricks

A few weeks ago, I heard Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discussing rice cookers and how great they are on episode 294 of their Back to Work program. Because I am a ridiculous person who buys things on impulse, and because I am a vegan who eats a lot of rice and vegetables, I loaded up Amazon Prime Now and the next morning was the proud owner of a Zojirushi NS-TSC10. It wasn’t the least costly option, but I chose the Zojirushi because I wanted one that would be useful for doing things besides just cooking rice. Also it having a cute elephant on it, being from Japan, and playing “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” when it finishes cooking, might have had something to do with it. Hard to say.

I’ve used it a lot. I’m sure the thing I’ve cooked the most in it is rice, but that’s not the only thing by any stretch. I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve made.

Chocolate Cake

The weirdest thing I’ve cooked in my rice cooker was a chocolate cake. It’s not actually that weird. The rice cooker I bought has a “cake” setting on it and if you search Google for rice cooker cake recipes you will find many. I used this recipe for the chocolate cake and it turned out great. It was a bit less mess and cleanup than when I’ve made similar cakes in the oven came out at least as well, or possibly better. It was moist chocolaty, and delicious.

Steel Cut Oatmeal

Ever since I saw the episode of Good Eats about oatmeal, I’ve preferred steel cut to the regular mushy kind. The problem is that when you make it on the stove it takes about 45 minutes to cook with semi-regular stirring involved. It’s sort of a pain in the butt. If you follow this recipe from Zojirushi’s own website, you’ll let the oats soak overnight and use the timer function to have the oatmeal be ready when you wake up. Steel cut oats way easier than cooking them on a stovetop and just about as good.

If you don’t wake up when you thought you would, the rice cooker can keep your oatmeal warm for a really long time, so it’s no problem.

Rice Porridge

My mom used to make something like this sweet rice porridge when I was a kid with left over rice from Chinese food, and I’ve made it a ton. It’s super easy to make.

Combine a cup of cooked rice (brown or white is fine) with one cup of soy/rice/cow milk, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, two tablespoons of brown sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and heat the whole thing up in a pot until it’s hot. Then you eat it. It takes a few minutes to make and is delicious. I’m not going to say it’s good for you, but, it’s got to be better than a pint of ice cream.

You can adjust the ratio of rice to milk to taste. I like it kind of thick, but you can also make it so it’s almost more like a hot beverage.

What I’ve Learned in Four Months of Aikido

I mentioned previously that one of the reasons I neglected to post here the last few months is possibly because I’ve been getting into other things and just haven’t thought about it. More than that, I think it’s that while I’ve thought a lot about the things I’ve been doing, I don’t really feel like I know enough about them to feel super comfortable speaking publicly about it. That’s probably a stupid reason not to write, but it’s mine.

The main thing that I’ve been obsessed with the last few months is studying Aikido. I try to go four days a week, sometimes three, but not less than that unless something unexpected happens. I’d like to get up to five or six days a week, but I’m trying to moderate myself a little. Anyway — I’m pretty into it.

Before I go on let me put a big disclaimer here that I’ve only been studying for a little less than four months, and so anything I’m about to say is from the perspective of a beginner who hasn’t even taken his first test yet.

Aikido is a Japanese martial art which is primarily defensive. It was first created by a man named Morihei Ueshiba (also known as Ōsensei) starting in the 20s and 30s and was developed into what it is today in the couple of decades after World War II. Instead of trying getting into a position where you can strike an opponent or do a technique you had in mind on them on them, you’re seeing the direction their own energy taking them and working with that. At least that’s how I understand it so far. Like I said: I’m a beginner.

There’s also what the call the “spiritual side” of Aikido. A lot of time in class is spent relating Aikido philosophy of blending with an opponent and not engaging energy head on to other parts of life. I find those parts pretty interesting and giving myself a framework that helps me be a little more disciplined and aware has been nice. If nothing else, getting out of the house and doing something physical with other people a few days a week is a positive development.

The biggest thing for me, so far, has been to do something where in order to succeed I need to focus on the process instead of worrying where I’ll be in the future. I don’t feel like that’s always natural for me, but I’d like to make it that way. If I can just do the best I can every day whether it’s day ten or day ten-thousand, I’ll make progress in the time it’s going to take, and probably more of it too. I think if I could apply that elsewhere it would be really helpful for me. Something one of my teachers has said before is that they’re not just trying to make us better martial artists, they’re trying to make us better people.

Whether or not I’m actually able to use any of what I learn to defend myself physically against a person who might try to harm me (I’m nowhere close to that) anytime soon is sort of the less important part to me if I can become a more focused, disciplined person. Being someone whose able to deal with conflict better and maybe also be a little less hard on themselves when trying something new is a pretty applicable life skill for me. I’d also like to get really good at the techniques, but, like I said, that’s sort of secondary.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to the last few months. Like I said, I’m totally a beginner, and I will be for a long time. Mine probably isn’t the best description of what this whole thing is about, but it’s what I’ve gotten out of it so far.

It’s been a good thing for me.

Also I’ve been told my shoulders are looking pretty buff, so that’s sweet.

Breaking the Blogging Seal

For no particular reason I haven’t kept up blogging the last few months, even though it’s been kind of a huge three months for me. Maybe because it’s been a big three months, I’ve had other things on my mind, and that’s why I haven’t posted. Anyway — I need to stop that momentum and get back to posting. So here it is. I’m breaking the seal. More soon.

Stanley Kubrick Exhibition

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to check out the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition currently at the Contemporary Jewish Museum here in San Francisco. I’m a big Kubrick fan and seeing the props, correspondence, and equipment presented as sort of a journey through his career was really interesting.

If you’re in the area and at all interested in Kubrick’s work, you have until October 30th to go, and you definitely should. In the meantime, you can check out the Flickr album I created with some of the photos I took of the exhibit.

Stanley Kubrick Exhibition

In Praise of Non-Magical Pointing Devices

Last week I tried playing a game on my Mac for the first time in a long time. About a minute in I realized that a trackpad or Magic Mouse was not going to cut it. I needed something with actual separate buttons that click. The one I landed on, after reading a few positive reviews, was the Razer DeathAdder Chroma. Yes, I agree the name is ridiculous. I choose not to focus on that.

I like it for a few reasons:

  • It’s the number one gaming mouse on Amazon, but doesn’t look too much like a gaming mouse, which is good, because I couldn’t look at one of those and take myself seriously.
  • It only has two side buttons, which is just the right amount for me. I bound them to back and forward in Safari, Xcode, etc.
  • The driver software is fantastic for the tiny bit of tweakiness I want (assigning those side buttons), and also totally Mac compatible. You can even easily set different button configurations for different apps, and it will switch automatically.
  • It feels pretty good in my hand. The buttons feel nice and clicky, too. The Magic Mouse gives me hand cramps.
  • It was only $50.

The things I miss are interial scrolling and gestures. But those suck on the Magic Mouse anyway, and are easily fixed by placing my trackpad on the other side of my keyboard for gestures.