Root Vegetable Stew with Lamb

The other day I was at the store and found that lamb stew meat was on sale. I decided to pick up some, take it home and make the first stew of the new year. I’d recently heard that parsnips were pretty good and never really had those before so I got some of those. Picking up some other veggies and a bottle of syrah I made my way home and got excited to eat delicious lamb and veggies.

  • 1.25 lbs Lamb (most any cut) cubed
  • 0.5 cup Flour
  • 0.25 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 cups Dry Red Wine
  • 1.5 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
  • 3 cups Chicken Stock or Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Fresh Tarragon
  • 1 lbs Small Red Potatoes
  • 0.5 lbs Small Yellow Potatoes
  • Parsnip
  • 3 good sized Carrots
  • Fennel Bulb
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Toss your enameled cast iron dutch oven on a burner on medium low (pan should be ~340F), don’t put any oil in it yet, the pan can stay at high temps no problem all alone.
  2. Put your flour in a big bowl with a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  3. Toss the lamb in the flour until coated. I had to do it in two batches, but I used a medium sized bowl.
  4. Put 2 tablespoons of oil into the pan (coat the bottom) and give a few seconds to fully come to temp. If you happen to have a pretty impurity heavy olive oil it may smoke at this point, drop the pan down to 325 and it should stop.
  5. I had to do this part in batches as well, brown the lamb on a couple sides, setting it aside as you work through your batches.
  6. Dump the wine and sherry vinegar into the pan. Use a piece of lamb to lightly scrub the bottom to get the good stuff, then put the rest in and bring to a boil.
  7. Add chicken stock and tarragon and stir it about a bit and bring it back to a boil.
  8. Once boiling, put in oven with lid for about 25 minutes.
  9. During those 25 minutes chop up the potatoes, parsnips, carrots and fennel bulb. The parsnips core seemed a bit tough closer to top so I cut it into coins for the skinny half, then I sliced down the sides to get all the delicious meat off of the core of the bigger half the roughly chopped that up. Fennel bulb I cut the stalks off and about a half inch of the bulb from the bottom. Then I sliced it in quarters with the grain. Then I cut it into strips against the grain.
  10. Once the 25 minutes has passed toss all of that into the pan and stir it up. I like my stews to have a bit of juice, so if you can see more than a quarter of an inch of the veggies and meat sticking out, pour some more wine and broth in (1 part wine to 4 parts broth).
  11. Put back in oven for about an hour or until the veggies are to your liking in softness.
  12. Bowl it up and devour it. If you like dry red wines, a glass goes nicely with it, otherwise put it in the fridge for deglazing any pan with red meat in it.

This is slightly modified from the exact stew I made to cut back the initial braise of the meat since mine turned out a little tough. I might also try braising at a lower temperature, but the problem is cooking the veggies through. They need quite a bit of heat to break down and become more tender.

Thanks to Nick Niemeir for asking me about the recipe today at work. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to writing it down.

If you have any tips or tricks for lamb stew, I’d love to hear them. But I’m pretty proud of how good this one turned out.

Roasting Broccoli

While trying to eat better, I’ve found a method of cooking broccoli that is delicious. Cooking is something I enjoy quite a bit. These days I’ve been focusing on simple dishes to improve the basics of my cooking.

This broccoli is some of the best I’ve had in my life. Only method I have found that can compete is stir fry. But, I don’t always want to slice up a bunch of veggies and put sauce on it all.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of broccoli per person
  • 1.5 cloves of garlic per head of broccoli
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
  • salt and pepper

Start by preheating your oven to 425F (220C). Slice the florets off the head of broccoli, leaving them on the larger side. Place into a large bowl, it needs to big enough to toss the broccoli in. Slice the garlic up and toss it into the bowl as well. Drizzle some olive oil on it, as well as some salt and pepper. Toss until lightly covered in oil.

Spread the broccoli out on a cookie sheet, don’t wash the bowl yet. I try to make sure they are all on their sides. Place in oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the broccoli flowers start to brown a little. This step may be extraneous, but I shake it up half way through.

Once the little flowers have started to brown, take the broccoli out and put it back in the same bowl you used earlier. This is so you get some fresh olive oil to go with the cooked stuff. Add the lemon juice, toss again, then serve.

The lemon juice at the end is what makes this dish. It makes the broccoli taste sunny, and the browned flowers add some texture and a unique flavor.

New House!

Lots of things in my life have been changing lately. I’ve been exercising quite a bit more with a trainer, my company opened an office, and finally I am moving in with my girlfriend (who is the prettiest and nice person (Hi Eva!))

I have lived in SE Portland for nearly 3 years. I’ve explored this area a lot, especially as I’ve changed jobs and trained for events. I love SE and I’ll miss it a ton. I’ve had the pleasure of living with the best roommate ever the whole time I’ve been in SE. I will no longer be coming home to a wiggly, snorty, happy pug. No longer right next to the Springwater trail.

But, the things I am giving up are being balanced with what I am gaining. I’m taking my relationship with my girlfriend to a new level. I’ll have my own office as well as a garage for working on my bikes. I’m coming back to NE, it has been several years since I’ve lived there, and last time I did both the neighborhood and I were very different.

NE has grown a bunch of new places to hang out, bike paths, and lots of my friends have moved there. I was at a far earlier point in my career, leaving me with very little money to explore anything except for the parks. Finally, my mindset these days is far healthier. I am no longer using video games and hacking as a way to escape life, I am instead embracing life in so many ways.

In short, I am excited for the change, but it is bittersweet.

Have I Blogged Yet?

This afternoon I decided to write a site that would let me track whether I’ve blogged in the various categories I have yet. http://haveiblogged.herokuapp.com/ is the site. The background for a category is red if I haven’t blogged yet, and is green if I have!

This is part of my new commitment to blog at least once a week in each category. I complain that my writing isn’t great, and I pretty consistently think of topics I could write about. This should drive me to actually put those thoughts and ideas out there in the blagosphere.

I’ll be putting up a post discussing the how I wrote the site soon in order to fulfill my programming category.

Blog Migration to WordPress

Pelican is a fine blogging platform, but I found I was more tempted to work on the blogging platform itself than to blog on it after a while. Then I’d feel guilty because I was using custom builds of Pelican that I had a hard time upgrading to anything new on… etc… etc.

I’ve moved to wordpress.

Is it the most secure?
Nah.
Does it have every feature I want?
I’m using the hosted version, so no it doesn’t.
Is it in a language I like hacking in?
Not even close.

So it begs the question why I’d use it. The biggest reason is that it is purely a blogging platform. I can just sit back and write posts. If the day comes that I want to get away from wordpress it is a common enough action that there is plenty of tooling around exporting your data.

Hoping that the end result is start blogging again, especially after the initial honeymoon period.

Consistency

I recently got my anonymous peer feedback at work. None of the negatives were surprising, though the positives were pretty uplifting. Shortly after I got that feedback, I read a blog post on things a person wished she knew earlier in her career.

Reliable is better than brilliant… After observing many of these individuals in action, I’ve realized that the output of hard, reliable, focused work over time, while less glamorous, always outweighs the value of short, ego-centric storms of genius.”

Shanley

That hits on a point that was made in a couple of my pieces of feedback. I am an extraordinarily inconsistent co-worker. Some weeks I am on and I close a bunch of bugs and get a bunch of patches in. Other weeks I am off and I close as few as 0 bugs. It is easy to go, “Well some bugs and projects are larger than others, that is why that happens.”

If I were to be honest, it is more about being distracted and/or burnt out. Leechblock has helped out a bit in that regard, but I still find other ways to be distracted, such as hanging out on IRC and compulsively checking all the messages that come in on my 30+ channel. Or maybe I tell myself I’ll just play a single level of a game, or read a single chapter of a book, but then I don’t have the self control to hold myself to that.

Now, I don’t have the answers as to how I am going to fix this, but I have started adding more tools to my repertoire. I wrote a script/webapp I have running locally that will tell me how many bugs I’ve closed per milestone. This way I can get a real feel for how inconsistent I am being, if I get a couple days in, and I am still lower than I’d like to be, I may shift gears and crank out a couple smaller bugs to get the brain juices flowing again.

My manager has provided me with some averages for the team, so I know where I should be myself. On top of that, he is very receptive to any ideas I have and wants to work with me to make stuff better. Part of dealing with flaws (especially ones that lead to anxiety like this one does for me) is admitting to it and then talking it through with people you trust.

If you have gone through this, or helped friends/co-workers in being more consistent, I am very interested in talking to you. xwraithanx on gmail, wraithan on irc.freenode.net and irc.mozilla.org, or any other way you happen to find for contacting me.

Plethora of Projects

I find myself in a state where I have many projects that people ping me about regularly. I am very into all of them and would love if I could dedicate to each of them time that they deserve. This posting is mostly an enumeration of those projects and what I want to do with them.

Read the Docs

This is definitely my highest priority project. It has the most users and with my friend Eric Holscher leaving on a long hike soon I’ll be the primary caretaker of the project. I have various issues to work architecturally which are moderately boring or security related but will be taking some of my development time on this project.

I’ve already started into one of my bigger goals which is to clean up the code base. The files to all comply to flake8 which is a step in the right direction. Next I will be cleaning things up so the project is closer to what I am used at work, which also gives us a style guide we can simply just cite.

Another goal is to change out the log in system to Mozilla Persona and eliminate the need for passwords. This, along with some other architecture fixes will make the platform a bit safer.

ZenIRCBot

This project has been gathering more users as well as contributors. Unfortunately it has been sitting there bitrotting (from my standpoint) due to being too busy for it. I am going to be trying to take over part of the May PDXNode hack night as a ZenIRCBot hack night.

This code base is also in dire need of a cleanup. We have 3.0 coming out soon, along with that I’m also going to be moving it under an org and splitting out various parts into their own repos under that org. Once that is done, I’ll be adding the backwards compatible changes like multiple server support. The nodejs version will be the blessed version and I’ll try to keep the python and clojure versions up to date but I don’t want to let them hold back the bot.

Finally, I’ve already added Aaron Parecki as a contributor and we’ll be code reviewing each other’s patches as well as sharing the burden of accepting pull requests and such.

pytmux

This is a newer project that is currently in a working state but I’d like finish some features so can release 1.0 and leave the project in a stable state.

The next steps for this are some more of the basic features (which are already filed as issues on github) as well as taking some time looking at the other projects in this space and determine what a 1.0 release should look like. This should be a minimal amount of hacking and should result in something that doesn’t require much maintenance.

hackspots.net

This project hasn’t even started other than gathering data. There is lots of hope in it though, and I really want it to exist. It has a lot of potential for those of us in town to discover new places to go, and to provide a place to send people who are new to town.

The project needs to be inited, in an effort to not polarize to one of the two bigger server side web languages (Python/Ruby) I’ll likely be going with nodejs. Theoretically there is a code base that was already started but it isn’t open source yet and rather than wait/force it to go open, I can just build it myself.

Django Debug Panel

This project has wonderful potential and high aspirations. Unfortunately it is also quite a bit of work. I have lots of prior art to sort through, issues to create, then finally I have to build it and document the protocol. This project is on the back burner for now until I can clear some other things off my plate.

training.wraithan.net

This one is in fact just throwing a 500 right now. I upgraded some stuff and it is all broken. As I get ready to do more century rides this summer I will want to have this around. Also I’d like to add integration for more than just DailyMile. There isn’t a ton of work to do, other than getting it working again.

Summary

I have a lot of projects to work on, some of which are higher priority than others. I am feeling rather overwhelmed when you combine this list with my hobbies, work, and other obligations. Hopefully, if you are using any of these projects, you’ll be patient with me as I try to find the time to improve them all.

Fundamentals

Just like in StarCraft 2 and in writing software, fundamentals are important for life. I was thinking about how I’ll plan out my time to in enough cycling time, StarCraft 2 time, and work/side project time when I realized in or to get this stuff done, I’m going to need a proper sleep schedule. On top of that I need to have discipline, another fundamental skill.

What it is looking like is I need to spend time working out my sleep schedule, eating and work habits, as well as chores. Getting to a good base for chores will be on the easier side since my landlord is coming for a yearly inspection tomorrow. Some base needs for chores are getting in a more regular cycle of laundry that isn’t just, “I’m completely out of t-shirts, boxers and socks, I should do laundry.” Preferably, I’d get to a point where I was doing laundry weekly and didn’t let it pile up until I have 2-3 loads to do.

Other chores include chipping in with house cleaning and doing bike maintenance. If I start doing other things (like cooking at home) better, I’ll find myself using the kitchen more and needing to contribute there regularly. As it is, I don’t feel like I help out in the house enough. On top of that, I haven’t been doing the weekly/monthly maintenance on my bike like I should be, my chains need to be lubed, my tires are low on my specialized, etc.

Sleeping, which I should be doing right now as it is 1am, is generally easier to fix over a weekend when I can enforce a sleeping schedule and just deal with any tiredness without a drop in my work productivity. I’d like to get in a schedule where I went to sleep at 9-10pm, woke up at 5-6am, then start work at 8-9am. Between the waking up and the working I’d like to get in a light breakfast, cycling, more breakfast, then a shower. On top of setting a regular start time for work, this will also put me on the path to set new personal records on my centuries and other long rides this year.

A thing touched on couple times above that is also fundamental is dietary needs. If I am going to be training and fixing up my sleeping, then fixing my eating habits is also required. Eating when I wake up in the morning will help with adjusting to the sleep cycle and maintaining it. The fuel will help me with being able to cycle for an hour or two in the morning. And finally, if I do it properly, I should lose some weight as well.

Reporting what I’ve worked on to my boss was an important step for me to find, reclaim and motivate my productivity. But I fell out of it when I was in Mountain View for a week and have been forgetting to work on it. We also moved to a small teams setup at work (which I’ll talk about in a Tech post), which has me doing 2 more meetings each week, but focuses the parts of the code base that I am expected to work in and, to an extent, own.

These are all fundamentals that I should practice, the cycling, SC2, side projects, etc are all secondary. Focusing on them to the detriment of these things will end up harming the whole. This means until I get control of my sleep schedule and have done so for a while, late night hacking sessions or SC2 with my friends at midnight are things that aren’t allowed to happen. Eating nothing but junk food all day is not ok. Starting my evening gaming or events before I’ve gotten my work goals for the day done, wont be happening.

To quote zefrank, “Warts and all! Let’s start this shit up!”

Flowing Through the Day

Flow state is an important aspect of my life. I remember slipping into flow while building things with LEGO as a kid. Then later when executing my best runs while skateboarding at the skate park. When I was a bit older it was during tests in school and while writing some of my first programs. These cases were never intentional though. They happened and it was cool that I got a lot of work done, then I’d go to do more and flounder.

Later, when I started writing software more seriously, I started to try to induce this state. Unfortunately, I didn’t have words for it, there was just good focus vs bad focus. One afternoon I was reading a blog post about athletes and being in the zone, which sort of reminded me of what I knew of when I was programming. I can’t find the post now, but searching for “the zone” let me find articles about flow.

Since then it has been a journey of trying to find triggers, figure out if any chemicals like caffeine can assist or hurt. There is a lot of research, but not a ton of it is good.

For me, I’ve been finding it is easier to get into flow in the extremities of the day. Either in the morning or at night. Afternoon or evening is generally a bust for me. Caffeine if I am not constantly drinking it, can be a great tool for when I need to sit down and get a lot of work done. Finally environment can be really influential, coffee shops and the like tend to be a good place for me, especially where I don’t know as many people. Conversely, at the office where I do know folks is terrible.

Keeping these things in mind, if it is a work day I try to spend my morning cranking out code and really getting stuff done while ignoring work chat unless someone directly mentions me. Often times I’ll go to a coffee shop (SE Grind is my current favorite) so I can get food and caffeine. Then in the latter half of the work day I am on work chat more, helping people out or discussing things. Between the two phases of the day I’ve been able to be more productive lately.

Non-work days I try to get my SC2 practice in the morning and at night. Using the middle of the day for relaxing, riding my bike, and getting chores done. I expect to have more to post on this topic in a few weeks after I see how this is working out for me. Until then, have a good day!

What Did I Do Today

I have really inconsistent productivity. Some days I am on fire and really hammering out code. Other days I get to the end and have nothing to show for it and really have a hard time remembering what I was doing. To this end my boss and I have decided it would be helpful if at the end of the day I send a report of progress I made on my bugs.

I opted include some other stuff, both for my boss’ sake and for my own tracking of my day. The basic format of the email is:

Today:

  • http://bugzil.la/700000 :
    • Wrote some code and made progress in the morning.
    • Finished in the afternoon, landed.
  • Other stuff: Helped edit someone’s blog post

Tomorrow:

I felt ok about today, I was distracted a bit with IRC questions. I might try keeping IRC minimized for parts of the day and only look at it when I am highlighted.

After doing this for two days, I’m deciding to do this in other parts of my life to varying degrees. For SC2, I’ll be doing a weekly report, because it is an approximately equivalent, since I am planning 5-10 hours of SC2 practice a week and that is near the same as my 6-10 hour work day.

I’m also thinking that I might do this for my bike riding as well. Weekly makes sense for this as well, because individual rides are less interesting but looking at them in aggregate I can see some trends and progress.