Four-cheese wheat berry broccoli bake

Dec. 22nd, 2014 09:08 am
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[personal profile] skud
This is a crosspost from Chez Skud. You can comment here or there.

Found this among my drafts. It’s from mid 2014 and I never posted it because I didn’t have a photo. It was delicious, though, and if you’re in the northern hemisphere it’s probably just about the right season for you to eat something like this. Definitely not the weather for it here and now! Oh well.

This was an experimental meal that worked out so well I thought I’d record it here.

The purple sprouting broccoli is bursting out all over the place in the garden, and needed eating before it started to flower, so I made this up based on a combination of recipes I found online.

For starters, broccoli and blue cheese is a classic flavour combo, but I only had a little knob of blue cheese left in the fridge, so I mixed it up with some other cheeses. Then, there are all kinds of broccoli-and-cheese soups and pastas and casseroles, but none with the whole grains I was craving, so I decided to use whole grain wheat berries instead of the potatoes or pasta that most of the other recipes used.

Start by soaking 1.5 cups of dry wheat berries for a while (I left mine a couple of hours, having got the idea for this mid-afternoon) then cooking them in 3.75 cups of water using the absorption method, such as in a rice cooker, or in a pot of boiling water on the stove (in which case strain them after they’re cooked). This will probably take about 40 minutes which is ample time to get the other stuff sorted out. I did it at a leisurely pace while puttering around and drinking cheap shiraz, so realistically if you’re on the ball all the other prep will take about 20-30 minutes.

While your wheat berries are cooking, prepare these ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tblsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 2 tblsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 small kohlrabi, grated (optional)

(I had kohlrabi that needed using. Don’t bother buying it if you don’t have it. But if you want to put more vegies in here, you can do it at this stage — zucchini would be an ok choice too, or any other kind of greens, or corn kernels, or mushrooms. Honestly I’m now wishing I’d put corn in mine. Damn.)

Saute the onion until golden-heading-towards-brown. Add the garlic, and saute a further minute or so, then add the herbs and any vegies that could do with having their water reduced a bit (in my case kohlrabi, but zucchini would also go here), and continue cooking a couple of minutes until it smells great. Set aside.

Now grate your cheese. I used approx:

  • 1.5 cup grated cheddar cheese (NOT the weird orange kind, what is with that, North Americans?)
  • 1/2 cup grated smoked cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

You’re aiming for about 2-3 cups total. If you don’t like blue cheese you can skip it. On the other hand, you could probably double the blue cheese if you really liked the flavour. All kinds of cheeses could work here to be honest — don’t sweat it too much, just use whatever you have, even just plain cheddar. You could go a bit lighter if you wanted, too. It’s flexible! Just grate any hard cheeses and crumble/dice any softer ones.

Mix all the grated hard cheeses together, and put about a cup of them aside for later.

Now make a white sauce:

  • 2 tblsp butter
  • 2 tblsp flour
  • 500 mL milk

In a medium-to-large saucepan, melt the butter then mix the flour into it to form a roux. Cook over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes, then start adding the milk a little at a time, incorporating it fully before adding more. As it becomes liquid you can add the milk faster. Once all the milk is added, turn the heat up to medium-hot and keep stirring until the sauce almost comes to a simmer and thickens up. It’s ready when it coats the back of the spoon or the sides of the saucepan.

Now add your cheese — everything except the cup of hard cheeses you set aside earlier — a handful at a time and stir in thoroughly.

Next, toss in the sauted onions, garlic, herbs and vegies from the pan, and stir them through, along with:

  • 3-4 cups broccoli, chopped (smaller than florets – mine were about an inch in their largest dimension)
  • your cooked wheat berries
  • a few grinds of pepper, to taste

Grease a baking pan and dump the wheat berry mix into it. Now make the topping:

  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko, but plain breadcrumbs would also be fine)
  • 1 cup grated hard cheese that you set aside earlier
  • a drizzle of oil

Toss them together, then spread them across the top of the wheat berry mix.

Bake at 180C until deliciously brown on top — about 30 minutes in my oven.

Serve with a salad, unless it’s pissing rain outside and you can’t be bothered going out to hunt lettuce in the dark, in which case promise yourself you’ll have a piece of fruit afterwards. Ahem.

The Yankee Book Swap

Dec. 20th, 2014 10:28 am
altamira16: Tall ship at dusk (Default)
[personal profile] altamira16
A friend of mine holds an annual book swap at his parents home in Denver. He invites everyone to bring a wrapped book. The first person chooses a book from the pile. The second person can either steal the first person's book or choose another book from the pile. If the first person's book is stolen, that person can choose a book from the pile because stealing from a person who has just stolen from you is not allowed. However, there is some collusion in this game so you can create three-way swaps by stealing a book that Person A really wants so Person A steals your book opening you up to steal the book you wanted from Person B who had stolen the book you really wanted.

I went to the book store look for Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg, The Martian by Andy Weir and Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. I made this list by reading Smart Bitches, Trash Books and Nihilistic-kid's list of books he loved this year.

Having found none of that, I bought If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript by Angus Croll, and my husband bought The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks by Amy Stewart at The Boulder Bookstore.

At the party, someone had his heart set on S. by J. J. Abrams. It is a book in shrink wrap because there is another story inside of it written on pieces of paper tucked into the book. Dancing with Jesus: Featuring a Host of Miraculous Moves Board book by Sam Stall was also popular. The front and back covers had lenticular images so Jesus really did dance. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography came up really late in the game, but I would have stolen it if it had come up sooner. The Interestings: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer was stolen a lot because some people were reading it in their book group.

My husband and I came home with The Big U by Neal Stephenson, which is one of Stephenson's earlier books that did not involve 600+ pages and The Historian by Kostova Elizabeth which is something that involves Vlad the Impaler.

Buy ALL the groceries!

Dec. 20th, 2014 12:40 pm
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[personal profile] skud
This is a crosspost from Chez Skud. You can comment here or there.

Remember when, back in the day, I used to post pics of my market haul? I was inspired by the excellent book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats which shows photographs of families from around the world with a week’s groceries.

Well, today I did what passes for a Christmas shop at my place, which is to say I went to the shops with the main intention of buying tasty things to see me through the next week or so, and without being too finicky about the budget. I wound up spending $93, which is about the national average for an adult’s food for the week, but way more than my usual (which is half that or less). That’s okay; I got lots of tasty stuff, plus I restocked a few pricier items that I’ve run out of lately.

groceries laid out on a table

The full haul: $93 worth.

Read the rest of this entry  )

Wrapping up the year

Dec. 19th, 2014 08:16 pm
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[personal profile] skud
This is a crosspost from Chez Skud. You can comment here or there.

It’s a cliche to blog about how seldom you blog, so I won’t. Instead I’ll just take the opportunity to reflect a bit on 2014 in terms of my home life.

It’s been a dog of a year. It’s been difficult to focus on anything much, let alone communicate about it. The first half of the year I was buried in personal stuff, and the second half of the year had more of that and then a lot of travel and busy-ness piled on top.

Most days I’m happy if I eat regular meals. I’ve had some great food this year, but mostly it just seems like a slog, trying to balance my body’s need for fuel, my inner self’s food-related hangups and issues, and the logistics of having food in the house, and having space and time to prepare it. I’ve had to cut myself a fair bit of slack on convenience foods and on food waste. Sometimes it’s better to buy a pile of fruit and vegetables just so I have them as an option, even if in the end I don’t eat them all and some of them wind up in the compost. Or to open a jar of something perishable so I can eat well now, even if I’m going away tomorrow or the next day and know I can’t finish it.

When times are hard I just keep trying to slog through it, do what I can, and remember nobody’s standing over me with a clipboard awarding points or writing down criticisms in red pen.

Some things I cooked/ate this year and didn’t post to the blog:

broad beans and leek from the garden, with ham, on homemade sourdough

broad beans and leek from the garden, with ham, on homemade sourdough

salad with red rice, sprouted lentils, tomato, kale, fetta, olives, and marinated artichoke hearts

salad with red rice, sprouted lentils, tomato, kale, fetta, olives, and marinated artichoke hearts

nettle soup

virulently green nettle soup with potato and ham

nachos

nachos with black beans and fresh jalapeno peppers from the garden

birthday lunch of ethical pork and beef ribs, corn bread, and coleslaw (eaten in a blanket fort! best birthday lunch!)

birthday lunch of ethical pork and beef ribs, corn bread, and coleslaw (eaten in a blanket fort! best birthday lunch!)

I’ve been doing a lot, a lot, of knitting and other crafts. Not least because I’ve had periods where all I can do is watch soothing TV and do something calm and repetitive. I’ve not been good at posting about it, though, nor updating Ravelry, and I have to admit that I’ve been casting on an awful lot of things for the “whee!” feeling of a new project, and not completing them. By my count I currently have at least 17 WIPs, most of which haven’t yet hit the “half done” mark.

I’ve instituted a kanban board on the wall of my living room for my craft projects (with an extra, innovative “> 1/2 DONE” column, because casting on and then putting it aside is a big issue for me) so I can see how many I have to finish. Sadly, it doesn’t work all that well to stop me casting on new things, because I just conveniently “forget” to add a sticker for the new project. Sigh. Oh well, at least every so often I can bring it up to date and it helps me remember what I have going, better than a pile of mystery project bags in the coffee table drawers ever could.

A week or so back I decided to try and reduce my WIPs considerably. My new rule (and let’s see how long I stick to it) is to have one large and one small/portable project out and work-on-able at any time, choosing the easiest to complete at any given time, according to the debt snowball method. Right now I’m working on a pair of fingerless mitts made from the tail ends of two colours of Mountain Colors Bearfoot, and a deathly dull product-knitting slog: a black hoodie in Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic 8 ply and in mostly stocking stitch. Both are made-up patterns, the hoodie being vaguely EPS-based, and the mittens basically just tubes with thumb-trick thumbs.

half-finished black hoodie

boring hoodie of boringness

red and brown striped fingerless mitts in progress

slightly less boring, but only just

My only escape from the “get through some bloody WIPs” effort is that I’ve told myself that I can knit hats for charity using wool from my charity-knitting basket, which I gathered up from all the odd scattered places and put in one pile last week. A hat usually takes about 2 evenings and is a quick distraction if I really must cast on something new. There’s at least a dozen hats worth of wool there, or roughly one for each reasonably-finishable project on the WIP list. (Some of the WIPs aren’t reasonably finishable, as they’re things like a mitred sock yarn blanket that will take years to gather odds and ends to make, or are super low priority, like the charming half-finished Scandinavian cross stitch table runner I found at a craft swap day — I have no qualms about that sitting quietly where it is for a long time.)

As for the garden… it’s a mess, and I’m late with planting everything, and that’s okay. I’m eating from it if not every day, then definitely every few days, and I have tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant coming along nicely for later in the summer. No clipboard, no red pen, right?

One thing that has been going well for me is that I’ve been making a pretty steady practice of getting rid of stuff. Somehow I’ve got to a point where it gives me a good, clean feeling to finish something and not have it any more, or to put something unused in the pile for the op shop (which seldom gets bigger than I can carry in my bike basket). Yesterday I had a momentary bout of “what if I applied for this amazing job and had to move house again?” and it made me think even more about how much stuff I have that I don’t need. I’m not going to apply for the job, but it did give me a kick in the pants about all my stuff.

A friend’s recently been talking up a decluttering guru who talks about getting rid of things that don’t spark joy, and it’s been good for me to think of my excess stuff in that way. It makes it much easier to say “no”. I don’t think I’m anywhere near Japanese minimalism (lol, no) but it does make it easier to get rid of things I’m keeping out of a sense of “ought”.

Finally, today I got a cleaner in, and she’s going to be coming regularly. I’ll be interested to see how much it changes my sense of overwhelmedness and whether it helps me get back on a more even keel with some of the other stuff I want to spend my energy on. I’ll give it a few months and then evaluate the costs/benefits; it’s a big chunk of my fairly tight budget, but I hope a worthwhile one for my mental health, which in turn is good for my so-called “actual” work.

I’m not going to make any new year’s resolutions, because they don’t work well for me. But here’s hoping 2015 is a good one!

skud: (Default)
[personal profile] skud
I'm afraid I'm going to have to mostly bail on [personal profile] liv's question, asking me to talk about "when mainstream feminism goes around reproducing lots of other hierarchies and oppressions", because I've been turning it over for a few days and I'm really not sure what to say.

I guess the short answer is: this is something I've been learning about and working on for the past 5 years, and I've been trying to improve my own practice around it, and to speak to people when they do faily things and I think I can usefully help out as an ally. The other thing, I suppose, is that I don't really engage much with "mainstream feminism" if by that you mean the sort of institutionally established liberal feminism that's out there; my feminism is Internet feminism, informed by fandom and geekdom and twitter and tumblr, and I'm not very involved in the stuff that actually gets covered in mainstream media or gets funding from mainstream bodies or whatever. And the feminism I am involved in is pretty aware of "other hierarchies and oppressions" most of the time, I hope.

Anyway I think this answer crosses over a bit with what I wrote for [personal profile] transcendancing under how my feminism has changed over time so I'll just point you there as well.

Sorry I couldn't write more :(
warthog9: Warthog9 (Default)
[personal profile] warthog9
I've taken to more of my medium length content being over on G+ these days, but I wanted to detail some things about my recently purchased Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet (GOOD LORD that's a mouthful!). I'll keep the gushing over the hardware to a minimum (it's a lot nicer than my old Xoom, that's for sure). So here goes!


Hardware


Yup, it's amazing, it's hard to argue with it much, it's thin, it's powerful, the screen looks nice. I do have some annoyances though, and they are just kind of stupid mistakes
  • Charging off of USB is *AMAZING*, seriously this fills me with such happiness it's crazy. What would have been BETTER is to have had an option to either wirelessly charge (Qi) or to make a USB to magnetic connector recharging thingie. These have been created by 3rd parties (I just ordered one of the usb to magnetic adapters, we'll see what I think) but it's just kind of odd that it wasn't dealt with up front. The reason I'm grumbling at all is the little door you have to open to get at the usb port (for charging) is a little obnoxious to open, and I could see it being really obnoxious if you didn't have any nails. Overall it's a minor nit-pick but yeah.
  • The headphone jack on the *BOTTOM* of the tablet? Seriously? So the obvious problem there is, what do I do when I'm at 30K feet on a flight? I suppose I can flip the tablet over entirely in it's case (I have the official Sony one, it's reasonably well thought out. Minor complaints there too), but yeah, that's annoying but not ideal. I've got a flight coming up, I'll "test" it and get back to this on G+, I likely will be annoyed
About it really, the hardware more or less speaks for itself beyond that.


Software



This is one area that many Android vendors futz up thinking that they are "adding value", what they are really adding is fragmentation and useless junk that usually undermines their own product. Sony, surprisingly, got the message somewhere and left nearly all of the OS stock, with minor tweaks here and there. Well done Sony!
  • The launcher / app drawer that Sony provides is actually quite nice despite it not being the stock ones. It's got some nice features that I would honestly like to see in the stock Android launcher:
    • Ability to search the apps
    • Re-order the apps (even a custom ordering)
    • Folders in the app drawer

Now this isn't to say that the app drawer is perfect...

  • What's wrong w/ the app drawer:
    • It wastes a fair amount of space on the page by not having the apps quite as dense. Another column or row would go a long way to alleviating that
    • I like on the stock launcher how if you long press on the app you get the option to put it on the home screen, uninstall or see more information. it's a little thing, but I'd love to see that added to the Sony launcher (it has similar functionality it's just not quite as intuitive)
Actually surprisingly I think that's about the only thing I can complain about there. I have the option to use the Google Now Launcher, but I'm going to stick with Sony's for now.

The other apps that deviate from Stock:
  • The Album / Gallery software is custom to Sony. It works, I have no major complaints about it, though I wish I could sort things a little bit better, it seems to just default to a very long sequential list by date, which is not the way my brain thinks about a lot of my photos. It does have the ability to connect to a network device and browse data there. I'm guessing it's only DLNA only but it's something!
  • Walkman / Play now / etc - Lets be honest here it's a music playing app, there's only so much here you do to differentiate. It looks like it supports all the formats I care about (mp3 & flac), the interface seems ok. It lacks genre tag support, so I'm not overly thrilled with it. Overall it looks fine. It's easily replaced by other things if you don't like it
  • Movies - again a custom setup. It's got a couple of nice bonuses, a couple of movies that I had on my xoom for testing that never played, now play on the Sony, so yay for expanded codec support. Looks like it lacks full mpg support though, not a show stopper obviously but something to note. It does have the ability to look up data from Gracenote and add extra meta-data, nice but again not critical.
  • The only other thing I've run into that's obnoxious is they "customized" the right side pull down. I expect that will go stock in Lollipop, but their quick settings thing is ok, it lacks the dynamic nature of stock, and things like Chromecast's cast entire screen will never show up in it. I'd argue that's fairly major demerits there.
The rest of the OS looks and feels stock with a few minor additions or changes, so kudos to Sony for that one.


Root


This is where the "fun" began for me.  Now many people will question why I care about root on my devices.  The biggest of which is that I run nightly backups of the devices.  It's silly, particularly for devices I'd consider generally ephemeral, but for some reason I don't see it as optional.  On my tablet I've also found having root dim very valuable when reading at night in bed and the lowest brightness setting is too bright for a fully darkened room and the tablet is less than a foot from my nose.

Some caveats

So I clearly didn't read all the documentation before I plowed into rooting my device, and it turns out Sony has something "special" about how they do things, namely there's a magical place called the TA partition, specifically (seemingly) the "Trim Area".  On most sane devices (Read: Google Nexus devices), you unlock the boot loader, flash a new recovery in, load up a flashable su app and you are off to the races.  It's easy, it's painless, you don't have to worry too much.

Sony on the other hand hides a bunch of things, like DRM keys, in the TA and specifically *WIPES* that area out when you unlock the boot loader.  These are things I think should be stored in a TPM, or some other chunk of hardware where even if I root around I can get at the base keys, but most ARM chips don't have such a thing, so that's where Sony put them.  The other thing this seems to govern is the warranty.  When you unlock the boot loader Sony uses words like "May void your warranty" or that warranty service may incur an additional charge if you unlock your bootloader.  In reality it looks like by unlocking the bootloader you DO void your warranty, which I'm actually VERY disappointed in Sony for.  It's their choice on that, but using words like "May" implies to me that if I screw it up badly enough from a software perspective I'm toast - I'm ok with that, but if the screen has a normal warranty-able issue (it seperates or something, I don't know), that I'd expect to be covered normally.  It also looks like, once you've unlocked your device you can't re-lock it.

Now I've said all of that, mainly, because I plowed forward and was stupid, didn't realize I needed / could backup the TA and it's all blown away.  The trick that people are finding is that if you back it up you can restore it and make it look like your device was never unlocked at the boot loader.  Ahhh but you ask, how can you back up the TA without root before you've unlocked the boot loader?  You got it, the 4.4.2 firmware is exploitable to gain root without unlocking the boot loader.  Do this, back up your TA and you are golden from then on out.

Ehhh Cest la vie, I've either gambled well and the device will be awesome and last me 3 years or it will destroy itself angering me and since I potentially have no warranty, I'll think twice about a Sony product in the future.

Recovery

Grief recovery is borked on the Sonys, not just a little, I mean A LOT.  Someone clever decided to deviate from the way many of the other devices work and instead of having a separate partition for the recovery (like Nexus devices) they stuck it in with the boot partition and made it work from there.  This means it's a pain to work with and that there's only really one recovery method: get XZDualRecovery to work.  This isn't *ENTIRELY* true but read the 4.4.4 section on why this is borked and I hate it.

Busybox

To keep XZDualRecovery (and make all that magic work) you need to keep their version of Busybox, so if you are like me and have Busybox Pro or something like that DON'T install it after installing XZDualRecovery.  XZDualRecovery seemingly needs lzma support to make all it's magic work, and that's not a common thing to have on other busyboxes.

4.4.2

This was basically a no brainer, run the various scripts around, they root the device, your golden.  Nothing but net!  caveat above on Busybox and you are golden.

Well you are golden until you decide "Hey 4.4.4 is out for the X2 Tablet SGP512, I should upgrade - heck even the tablet is telling me I should upgrade!" WELLLLLLLL, it seems Sony didn't like me rooting my tablet and the OTA servers stopped telling me there was an update, and the PCC (Sony's desktop app) refused to upgrade the device claiming it didn't like my modified software.

Can't say I was overly impressed there.  Eventually I just downloaded the right files, found a program called Flashtool and got it upgraded.  I expect I'll have to do roughly the same thing for Lollipop when it comes out.

4.4.4

So when I upgraded to 4.4.4 I lost root, and started a quest to get it back.  The short answer is it's NEARLY impossible, and almost assuredly impossible with a non-unlocked bootloader.  To start with, the recovery stuff you had setup in 4.4.2, yup - wiped out.  So step 1 was getting a recovery going.  The only recovery I could get to work were ones that were incompatible the rest of the OS.  Bugger so my process eventually came down to:
  1. Flash incompatible cwm-z2-tablet.img (search for it on Google)
  2. Boot to the new recovery (you can't boot anything else, it'll just end up in a boot loop)
  3. Take a program called PRG (Pre-Root Generator) which you can take the base files you would use for Flashtool and add in XZDualRecovery and a flashable super user of your choice and bolt them all in.  Pay close attention to include the kernel, as that will over write the recovery image that doesn't work.
  4. adb push the file generated from 3 into the sdcard of the tablet
  5. install the zip on the tablet
  6. Reboot
It's messy, but it worked, it got me root and recoveries work.  Things that don't work
  • When SuperSu updates from Google play and tells me it needs to update the su binary, the only way I found to make it work was to download the flashable and do it from the recovery manually.
  • I suspect other things that will be in similar shape
  • /system seems to be locked to read-only when not in a recovery mode

UPDATE:

Tonight I realized (while trying to copy some movies over), I seemingly broke MTP somewhere.  It tries to load but windows claims the device is broken (I've checked it with several other devices, they are all good), Linux gives a similar explosion.  easy enough to pop the sd card and copy the files over via usb3, but just odd

Wax clinic!

Dec. 17th, 2014 10:48 pm
shadowspar: A cross-country skier skiing into a stadium (xcski)
[personal profile] shadowspar
Start-of-season wax clinic at Soo Finnish Nordic tonight! Was really looking forward to this, 'cuz my skis haven't really had a proper waxing since I got them -- just whatever the store put on them, plus a daily touch-up with express wax.

So, my major learning for the evening: it turns out, applying proper wax to skis does indeed make them more slippery, and therefore faster! However, it also makes you more clumsy...! Going to have to check the package to see if this side effect is listed on there. Will be in touch with the wax manufacturer if not. ;)

Let me say this about that

Dec. 17th, 2014 11:36 am
beable: (We want information)
[personal profile] beable
According to my dad, that was a Nixon thing, not a JFK thing.

FYI.

done dids for wednesday

Dec. 17th, 2014 03:00 pm
skud: (Default)
[personal profile] skud
Structured procrastination du jour

* sent email to someone who's involved in a large seed-sharing project in India, to talk to them about their data use etc
* sought an introduction to someone who founded an open food project centred on nutrition data
* talked with some people on IRC about Growstuff values and with another set of people about attracting and onboarding designers in open source projects
* finished writing up report for work I did last month (project X woooot!)
* phone meeting re: work for the first quarter of next year
* sent out emails about next year's work (being vague on purpose!)
* womanfully avoided getting into a heated discussion about trigger warnings as an accessibility measure (and thanked someone who stepped up to say the thing I wanted to say, but said it much more calmly)
* made a decision about dropping some work I don't seem to be able to do effectively, and made some steps toward finding a replacement (a different project X potentially off my plate! also woot!)
* arranged time with lawn mower (for vague definition of "arranged" as the time seems to be constantly being pushed back)
* went to shops/ATM to get cash for lawn mower person (and also snacks and gin)
* ate snacks, drank gin
* phonecall with project X that I'm dropping, let them know I'm dropping them, offered to help find replacement, chatted a bit with friend who is my contact there
* improved Growstuff's README to have more information on contributing for designers, writers, etc (it previously only had information for coders)
* wrote fairly epic Get involved page for Growstuff wiki
* decided that since I've been enjoying the December posting meme, I might do a monthly blogging plan thing for the future; set up google spreadsheet for this
* read interesting blog posts about UX and design and stuff

(to be updated as I do stuff)

Recent time between travel

Dec. 15th, 2014 09:24 pm
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[personal profile] pleia2

This year has pretty much been consumed by travel and events. I’ll dive into that more in a wrap-up post in a couple weeks, but for now I’ll just note that it’s been tiring and I’ve worked to value my time at home as much as possible.

It’s been uncharacteristically wet here in San Francisco since coming home from Jamaica. We’re fortunate to have the rain since we’re currently undergoing a pretty massive drought here in California, but I would have been happier if it didn’t come at once! There was some flooding in our basement garage at the beginning (fortunately a leak was found and fixed) and we had possibly the first power outage since I moved here almost five years ago. Internet has had outages too, which could be a bit tedious work-wise even with a back up connection. All because of a few inches of rain that we’d not think anything of back in Pennsylvania, let alone during the kinds of winter storms I grew up with in Maine.

On Thanksgiving I got ambitious about my time at home and decided to actually make a full dinner. We’d typically either gone out or picked up prepared food somewhere, so this was quite a change from the norm. I skipped the full turkey and went with cutlets I prepared in a pan, the rest of the menu included the usual suspects: gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans and rolls. I had leftovers for days. I also made MJ suffer with me through a Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hah!

I’ve spent a lot of time catching up with project work in the past few weeks. Following up on a number of my Xubuntu tasks and working through my Partimus backlog. Xubuntu-wise we’re working on a few contributor incentives, so I’m receiving a box of Xubuntu stickers in the mail soon, courtesy of UnixStickers.com, which I’ll be sending out to select QA contributors in the coming months. We’re also working on a couple of polls that can give us a better idea of who are user base is and how to serve them better. I also spent an afternoon in Alameda recently to meet with an organization that Partimus may partner with and met up with the Executive Director this past weekend for a board meeting where we identified some organizational work for the next quarter.

At home I’ve been organizing the condo and I’m happy to report that the boxes have gone, even working from home means I still have too much stuff around all the time. MJ took some time to set up our shiny new PlayStation 4 and several antennas so our TV now has channels and we can get AM and FM radio. I’ll finally be able to watch baseball at home! I also got holiday cards sent out and some Hanukkah lights put up, so it’s feeling quite comfortable here.

Having time at home has also meant I’ve been able to make time for friends who’ve come into town to visit lately. Laura Czajkowski, who I’ve worked with for years in the Ubuntu community, was recently in town and we met up for dinner. I also recently had dinner with my friend BJ, who I know from the Linux scene back in Philadelphia, though we’ve both moved since. Now I just need to make more time for my local friends.

The holiday season has afforded us some time to dress up and go out, like to a recent holiday party by MJ’s employer.

Plus I’ve had the typical things to keep me busy outside of work, an Ubuntu Hour and Debian Dinner last week and the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter which will hit issue 400 early next year. Plus, I have work on my book, which I wish were going faster, but is coming along.

I have one more trip coming this year, off to St. Louis late next week. I’ll be spending few days visiting with friends and traveling around a city I’ve never been to! This trip will put me over 100k miles for the calendar year, which is a pretty big milestone for me, and one I’m not sure I’ll reach again. Plans are still firming up for how my travel schedule will look next year, but I do have a couple big international trips on the horizon that I’m excited about.

Originally published at pleia2's blog. You can comment here or there.

Done did

Dec. 16th, 2014 11:54 am
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[personal profile] skud
I've been feeling really unproductive/unfocused lately, with a tendency to zone out and do nothing in particular for hours on end. I let myself have a week or so of that, because I figured I was exhausted from all the recent travel and events and stuff, but now I need to snap out of it.

I don't want to force myself to the point of burnout or anything like that, but I do want to redirect my energy a little. So the other day I made a couple of small decisions about that, mostly around practicing structured procrastination: if I'm going to goof off from project X, then I should fall back to lower-priority project Y, rather than to doing nothing-in-particular. It's not as if I'm lacking in Project Ys of all kinds, many of them relaxing or pleasant. For instance, I should have been working on some boring sysadminny stuff recently, and I've been procrastinating by watching TV; instead, I could procrastinate by gardening, or shredding papers, or working on a fun part of Growstuff.

Also, if I'm going to spend time reading/knitting/etc, I'm going to try and do it outdoors now the weather is really nice, rather than sitting inside out of habit.

Anyway, I think I'm going to make a list of things I've done, even if they weren't project X, so that I don't keep beating myself up over how I wasted a day by not doing X.

Today:

* dishes
* watered garden
* formed sourdough loaf (bake tonight)
* triaged knitting projects, hid all except two (going to try and have no more than 1 big/1 small actively in progress at any time)
* put away excess knitting needles/tools that were piled up all over the dining table
* tidied knitting mess next to TV
* generally tidy-up around my desk
* took down unconf schedule from skudcamp so i can use my whiteboard again
* shredded papers
* had a conversation with [personal profile] brainwane about design and open source, sent followup email
* drew a mindmap of "Growstuff Values" on my newly-cleaned whiteboard, and posted a question about the topic to see what other people think
* put some socks which no longer spark joy (if they ever did) in the op shop pile
* contacted someone about mowing my lawn (since this is one of the things I keep procrastinating on)
* started putting together an actual up to date resume (haven't needed a real one for years and years; need one now for a fellowship application)
* knit a little bit on the fingerless mitts that are the project I have that's closest to completion (what does it say that I'm prioritising my knitting WIPs via the debt snowball method?)
* tidied a bit in my bedroom, hung up clothes
* took out trash
* actually baked bread (hurry uuuupppppp i'm hungry)
* tidied up for craft night
* found a vendor who sells big blocks of pure olive oil soap at a decent price

(to be updated throughout the day)
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[personal profile] skud
[personal profile] brainwane asks for my thoughts on/reactions to various foods, for the December posting meme.

Oatmeal: Pretty much my most hated food. I can't handle the combination of bland and mushy/slimy. Would eat it if starving, but not otherwise. Lots of people tried to tell me that I would prefer steel cut oats, so I tried that one time, and it was even worse. I felt like I was going to throw up after two mouthfuls. A world of no. (I have come around to congee, though, after reading a really good blog post about a whole-grain version of it. Just the description of the strongly flavoured toppings was enough to make me want to try it. I made some for myself the next time I had a free range chicken, and it was fine. The toppings helped a lot. However, since I so seldom have chicken and have never seen free range chicken congee or multigrain congee available in restaurants etc, it's not something I have often.)

Miso (soup or other): I like miso soup but not when it comes as a little bowl on the side of a Japanese meal. I would rather have a big bowlful of it as a meal in itself, or else that powdered packet stuff as a quick low-effort snack (especially when I had an office job); the side-soup thing is just too in-between for me. Lately I've started learning to use miso in cooking. This blog has delicious looking recipes (oat porridge excepted!) and I'd like to try a bunch of them. I'd also like to learn how to make miso-based salad dressings, as that would probably fit my eating habits pretty well, and extra protein and umami are always welcome in my salads!

Licorice (black and/or red): When I was about 11 years old, I got a licorice showbag at the Royal Melbourne Show and ate most of it in a very short time period. My poo was black for two days afterwards. Now I can never eat black licorice without thinking of that. I still like licorice but I don't eat it often, I guess because I don't eat candy often. Red licorice, ehhh, it's not such a thing here, and I'm not a particular fan. The scandinavian ammonia licorice stuff horrifies me just on general principle and I wouldn't try it even if offered.

Hollandaise sauce: One of the most important foods in the world! Vital part of eggs benedict (or florentine, the vegetarian version with spinach instead of eggs, which is what I usually order) and an Australian cafe brunch staple. My nearest cafe does an ok hollandaise but honestly I think it's just a smidge too tart. The other cafe I sometimes go to does a perfect hollandaise but serves their eggs bennie (which I get there because they use local artisan ham) on local artisan sourdough which NO, I want a muffin dammit, that's what eggs bennie *is*. The abominations I saw masquerading as hollondaise or as eggs bennie in American diners and brunch places make me shudder; the worst I recall was at a diner in Chicago, where I really should have known better. Hollandaise in the US usually tastes flabby and has no sharpness; sometimes it seems to have separated; and on at least one occasion, when I should have had hollondaise, it seemed to have cheese sauce (like on mac and cheese) instead. I no longer order eggs bennie when I'm in North America; huevos rancheros takes their place. (Wikipedia tells me that EB was invented in the US. Maybe I'm missing something, but in my experience, it is far more common and far better made in Australia than anywhere I've seen in North America.) On a related note, there's a pub in Melbourne that does an amazing kangaroo with bearnaise sauce and excellent shoestring fries; I love to take foreign visitors there for dinner.

Coconut milk: Important pantry staple, vital to a couple of my standard dinners (the most common of which is Thai curry with tofu and veg, made from the one true curry paste, which I also always have on hand). When I shop for coconut milk I always read labels and try to get the ones with the least additives, which can be surprisingly difficult at times. I often find myself wishing I had easy access to coconuts to make my own.
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[personal profile] skud
[personal profile] serene asked: "What can a person who is not a programmer do on Growstuff or other projects that will (a) help them become a programmer; and (b) not make everyone who already knows how to do it irritated."

What a great leading question ;)

Firstly, wrt Growstuff, we have a pretty high barrier for irritation, and "learning to program" isn't usually one of our triggers, no matter how slow or how many questions you ask. But I know that sort of reassurance doesn't really count for much, so here are some practical things you can do, too. I'm going to break them into three sections. You will probably want to work on the three sections kind of in parallel, starting with the basics in all of them, and then working up. I mean, you don't have to finish all the coding stuff before getting involved in Growstuff. Think of it like being enrolled in three 101-level courses simultaneously.

Learning the basics of coding



This isn't really what you asked for, but it's part of the picture, so I'm going to dump some generally useful learning-programming resources on you. I'm assuming you're starting from zero, but skip ahead if not. This is stuff that's not Growstuff-specific, but which you'll probably want to learn in parallel with getting involved with the project itself.


  • Play with one of the very basic 15 minute programming intros online. tryruby is popular (and Growstuff is written in Ruby, so it's relevant too), but there are others around as well. All you're trying to do is get the idea of making the computer do your bidding by typing code at it. If that's fun, you'll want to move on to the next thing.
  • If your interests incline that way (i.e. you think you want to build webpages and you care about how they look and the user interface), learn some HTML, CSS, and/or JavaScript. CodeAcademy seems popular and has interactive online resources. Codeschool is more about video lectures if that's your thing, and their front end foundations would be a good place to start. w3schools has good references and tutorials for all three.
  • If you think you're more of a backend person (you want to work in the engineroom, making things go, and don't much care how it looks) you should focus on learning Ruby and Rails instead. If you've never programmed before you'll want to learn the Ruby language a bit first. CodeAcademy has a Ruby track (which you do in your browser). Learn Ruby the Hard Way is kind of didactic and a bit of a pain in the ass, but it teaches from first principles and doesn't sugar-coat things, and will set you up well for real coding.
  • You should probably do at least the basics of both the above steps (HTML/CSS/Javascript, and Ruby), and at some point you should go in depth on one or the other. It's not necessarily a pre-requisite for other stuff though.
  • Work through a simple Rails tutorial like Rails for Zombies so you kinda know what a Rails app looks like.
  • Work thorugh a simple Git tutorial like Try Git to get a bit of a sense for what that's about.
  • Along the line you've probably learned a bit about using a command line and a text editor, but if not, you should get good at both these things. SublimeText is a good and powerful text editor and worth learning how to use well. Googling for "sublimetext tutorial" or "sublimetext tips" will get you lots of good resources. To learn how to use the command line, it depends a bit on what operating system you're on, and to be honest I couldn't find any tutorials I'd wholeheartedly recommend. Maybe someone in comments can help? But this is also stuff you pick up via tips from other programmers, over the course of your programming life. I am still picking stuff up after 20+ years. So you don't need to know everything up front.


Getting to know Growstuff, its code, and its community




  • Sign up for Growstuff itself and start using it. If you don't have a veggie garden yourself and don't want to enter dummy data in the live site, you can sign up on the staging website instead (or as well). Get an idea for the different parts of the website, the main actions available, and the mental model of how things are connected to other things. For instance, "a member can make posts, plantings, harvests", or "my profile has X Y and Z info", or "it looks like the site is using the same maps in multiple places", etc.
  • If something bugs you, is broken, or looks like it needs improvement, let someone know! You can post on Growstuff itself (I read all posts there), or on Growstuff Talk in the Problem or Idea categories. Or drop me a note privately. We'll take suggestions wherever we find them, in any format. Later, as you get more confident, you can learn how to make suggestions directly into the issue tracker that programmers use, but you don't have to up front (unless you want to).
  • Look at the code. It probably won't make much sense at first, but just take a cruise round and see if anything catches your eye. Pretend you're watching foreign films without subtitles. You won't necessarily understand everything that's going on, but you might catch bits here and there, and start to pick up on the storyline. You're not trying to understand every word yet, just get a sense for what things look like, and make some connections between the concepts on the site itself, and where they are in the code.
  • Hang out where the programmers hang out, and follow their discussions as well as you can. You don't necessarily have to dive in to them, but just absorb and notice the things that programmers talk about, the terms they use, the rhythm and processes of software development, etc. Follow any links they post. Google for terms you don't understand. For Growstuff, the main places where programmers discuss programmery things are this developer forum and our IRC channel. You should also watch this github repo to get notifications of issues, pull requests, etc which often have developers discussing/commenting on them; these are often the most nitty-gritty code discussions.
  • Cruise around the Development section of the wiki, and do the same absorption process. Not everything will make sense, but bits of it may settle in your subconscious, and you'll remember to come back and look again.
  • If you're feeling chatty, introduce yourself and socialise a bit. Here's an intro thread on our discussion forum, or just say "hi" on IRC and see who's around. We often talk about gardening, food, travel, making stuff, hobbies, and life in general, so don't feel like you need to only talk about programming. However, if you want to ask programming questions or let people know you're learning to program, you'll probably get plenty of advice and support, too.
  • You might like to ask someone to give you a code tour or to do a show-and-tell of what they're working on. Here's a thread to find a pair programming partner, where you could say you want to set up a first intro-level session. Be upfront that you're just learning -- on Growstuff, that's generally an incentive rather than the reverse.


Starting to contribute, as someone who knows zero-to-very-little programming but is learning




  • Help out in the testing threads, trying out new features. Try to break stuff, and think about how things might break, eg. try it on your phone, or put ridiculous things in the form fields, or try to do things you shouldn't have permission to do. When things break, see if you can hone in on what specifically is breaking, and describe it in precise terms. A precise bug report is half way to a fix.
  • Having done that, go look at the related pull request in Github (should be listed here) and see if you can match what's going wrong, to the bit of code where you think the problem might be. You can leave a comment if you like, on or around the problem line, saying "I think the problem might be here" (and why, if you have any ideas). This will help the developer find their fix. You don't have to if you're not sure though.
  • Look to see if there's a written test in the pull request. It will be in a file starting with "spec/" and will describe what should be happening. If there's a bug, and the test is passing, then the test is wrong. See if you can spot the error, and leave a comment. Or maybe there is no test! In that case, see if you can imagine what test should have been written, and leave a note saying "A test for X might have picked up the problem I found while testing this" or similar. (Again, if you feel awkward or unsure leaving comments, it's not required. Just reviewing the code is a learning exercise.)
  • Do a code review when someone submits a pull request. Even if you're inexperienced, you can still notice inconsistencies, or say when something is especially confusing to you as a beginner, which is actually helpful to know! Also think about the things people have said in previous code reviews (that you've been reading), and see if any of them apply. For instance, you might have heard that code isn't "DRY" (DRY = Don't repeat yourself, "not DRY" means the code is repetitive). So if the code you're reading does seem repetitive, you might comment on that. If you understand it all and don't see any problems, you can leave a comment saying "Looks good to me" or similar.
  • If you like doing front-end stuff (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) you can save copies of Growstuff pages locally and fiddle with them to try to improve them. You might want to try fixing something that's in our issue tracker or just something that personally bugs you (maybe create an issue first, in that case!) If you've made an improvement, drop a note on the forums or somewhere, and see if you can upload/send it to someone to integrate into the site (or skip ahead to setting up a dev environment to do it yourself).
  • You can do all the above without setting up a Growstuff dev environment, but the time will come when you want to do that. Here are the Getting Started docs. There's a reasonable chance you'll get stuck, so it's good to have a window open to the IRC channel, or be ready to post for help on the development forum, or have a friend you can drop an email to. We're usually happy to set up a pairing session to help you get set up, too (see link above). Or you could find a friend to do it with (perhaps someone more experienced at command line stuff, even if not specifically at Rails), or see if there's a local OpenHack or similar friendly/supportive coding event where you can ask for help if needed.
  • When you're ready to start coding on Growstuff, using the full development environment, look at our beginner-friendly tasks for starters (hmm, we need more of those!) These are ones that you should be able to figure out, perhaps with some help, if you've been through some tutorials like I listed above; they're generally between 1 character and a few lines of code. Look at our Coding session docs on the wiki to guide you through all the steps from "I want to do something" to "I've done it and submitted it". Again, you might want to set up a pairing session or do it with a friend, or at least be ready to ask on IRC or the forums if you get stuck. We'd rather answer simple questions than have you sit there frustrated not knowing what to do!
  • A good next step, if you want to get more familiar with Rails, are our railsy tasks which give you a good overview of how Rails basically works (models, views, controllers, migrations, etc). But really, what you do next will depend on your interests and what enthuses you!


I have rambled on a LOT here but hopefully there are some concrete steps and some reassurance. We really do like beginners, FWIW, and will do whatever we can to make your experience fun and productive.

I think you can probably apply a lot of this to other projects as well, but I'd also point you at my December meme post for [personal profile] melannen the other day, who asked for advice on contributing to a larger open source project, as most of that will apply to you as well. Be sure to check the comments, where [personal profile] brainwane links to a great description of how to evaluate a project in 5 minutes (this will help you find where the developers hang out, where to read the code, etc), and also a great template for how to introduce yourself to a new project in a really productive way.

Thanks to [personal profile] pozorvlak and Taylor (two other Growstuff devs) who contributed suggestions to this post when I asked for ideas on IRC :)
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[personal profile] skud
As part of the December meme, [personal profile] melannen asks me to write about, "Advice for someone who wants to level up from coding stuff like simple javascript toys to working on large-scale open-source projects?" I'm a bit late (as I took an honest to god vacation for a few days, and then got delayed on the way home) but better late than never, right?

I'd say there are two main skills you need to get involved in larger open source projects, and those are communication tools/media, and distributed version control.

For the former: all large open source projects have some kind of communication channel, whether it be a mailing list, IRC channel, web-based forum, or something else. I think it's important to know how the technical side of these works (eg. to get comfortable using IRC or mailing lists), and also to absorb some of the culture of those communication channels, if you want to get involved in a project.

I would say that if you want to do well in an open source project, you should probably spend as much time communicating as you do coding. I imagine there are plenty of people that would disagree with me, but I doubt they're reading this DW journal ;) Some of the things I count under communicating include:

  • reading/replying to threads on mailing lists/forums
  • using IRC to get real-time advice/help or just to chat with other project members
  • commenting on bugs/issues/feature requests
  • reviewing and commenting on other people's code
  • following/being followed by/interacting with other project members on social media
  • writing up reports of work you've done (either for your own blog, or the project forum/mailing list, or wherever)
  • writing documentation or notes that other people might find useful
  • etc.


At first your communication will be lots of question-asking and basic stuff, but the more of that you get out of the way early on, the quicker you'll be able to communicate at a more advanced level, so don't be afraid of asking too many questions or whatever.

(Caveat: if the other people on the project make you feel bad for asking questions, or are rude about it, then they are being assholes. This is on them, not on you.)

The second skill I mentioned is distributed version control. Most open source projects use some form of it these days, and the majority (in my experience) use git, especially github. Others use git with a different host for their central repository, or use a different DVCS (eg. Mercurial), but generally speaking if you know how to use github, you can apply those skills anywhere.

Git's underlying engineering might be brilliant but its user interface -- the commands you need to type to make it do things -- is one of the worst-designed pieces of crap I've ever had to deal with. It is a pain in the backside to learn, and once you've learned it you'll have to keep re-learning bits of it because it has no consistency and laughs at your attempts to remember its syntax. If you find git complicated and frustrating, it's not you. But you still have to learn it, sorry. And you'll have to learn a bit more than most intro tutorials will teach you, too, because many intros assume you're working solo but large open source projects will have more complexity of branching/forking/cloning/pushing/pulling/etc. Best way to learn this IMHO is to find someone to slowly walk you through how your chosen project does it, and take copious notes which you can refer to later (and/or set your shell to record your history, and save it somewhere, annotated if possible.)

So yeah, those two skills, I think, will get you a long way towards working on larger open source projects generally. Beyond that, I think it depends a lot on what project you choose, and what tools/techniques/etc they are into.

There's something I wanted to link you to but I can't find it. I think it was a presentation done by [personal profile] brainwane (or maybe just linked by her?) where she demonstrated how, in 5 minutes, you can review the public face of an open source project and get a sense for its health and find out how to get involved. Anyway, hopefully brainwane will see this and pipe up in comments!

My father passed away 10 years ago

Dec. 7th, 2014 05:49 pm
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[personal profile] pleia2

It’s December 7th, which marks 10 years since my father passed away. In the past decade I’ve had much to reflect on about his life.

When he passed away I was 23 and had bought a house in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I had just transitioned from doing web development contract work to working various temp jobs to pay the bills. It was one of those temp jobs that I went to the morning after I learned my father had passed, because I didn’t know what else to do, I learned quickly that people tend to take a few days off when they have such a loss and why. The distance from home made it challenging to work through the loss, as is seen in my blog post from the week it happened, I felt pretty rutterless.

My father had been an inspiration for me. He was always making things, had a wood workshop where he’d build dollhouses, model planes, and even a stable for my My Little Ponies. He was also a devout Tolkien fan, making The Hobbit a more familiar story for me growing up than Noah’s Ark. I first saw and fell in love with Star Wars because he was a big scifi fan. My passion for technology was sparked when his brother at IBM shipped us our first computer and he told me stories about talking to people from around the world on his HAM radios. He was also an artist, with his drawings of horses being among my favorites growing up. Quite the Renaissance man. Just this year, when my grandmother passed, I was honored received several of his favorite things that she had kept, including a painting that hung in our house growing up, a video of his time at college and photos that highlighted his love of travel.

He was also very hard on me. Every time I excelled, he pushed harder. Unfortunately it felt like “I could never do good enough” when in fact I now believe he pushed me for my own good, I could usually take it and I’m ultimately better for it. I know he was also supremely disappointed that I never went to college, something that was very important to him. This all took me some time to reconcile, but deep down I know my father loved my sisters and I very much, and regardless of what we accomplished I’m sure he’d be proud of all of us.

And he struggled with alcoholism. It’s something I’ve tended to gloss over in most public discussions about him because it’s so painful. It’s had a major impact on my life, I’m pretty much as text book example of “eldest child of an alcoholic” as you can get. It also tore apart my family and inevitably lead to my father’s death from cirrhosis of the liver. For a long time I was angry with him. Why couldn’t he give it up for his family? Not even to save his own life? I’ve since come to understand that alcoholism is a terrible, destructive thing and for many people it’s a lifelong battle that requires a tremendous amount of support from family and community. While I may have gotten genetic fun bag of dyslexia, migraines and seizures from my father, I’m routinely thankful I didn’t inherit the predisposition toward alcoholism.

And so, on this sad anniversary, I won’t be having an drink to his life. Instead I think I’ll honor his memory by spending the evening working on one of the many projects that his legacy inspired and brings me so much joy. I love you, Daddy.

Originally published at pleia2's blog. You can comment here or there.

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