Spectacular Fritatta

3 TB rosemary
3 TB basil
pulverize together in a mortar and pestle
8 eggs
whip together in a large bowl

1 cup fresh spinach (about 1-2 oz) Coarsely chop spinach
1 avacado quarter and peel the avacado, the slice the quarters into 1/4 inch wedges
1 medium to large onion (about 3/4-1 cup) Chop. Saute in heavy cast-iron skillet until browned. Set aside in bowl.
1 medium potato
chopped spinach sauteed onion
Pre-heat the broiler. slice the potato into 1 inch by 1.5 inch by 1/4 inch thick rounds. Saute in the skillet until tasty. Add the spinach and onion, and mix briefly.
egg mixture Turn on a high fire. When everything is sizzling, pour the eggs over the vegetables. Let them cook until mostly set (only a minute or two). If you're feeling ambitious, lift up the edge and let some of the liquid egg run under to cook. Turn the fire off.
avacado slices
1 cup medium-packed grated cheddar cheese (about 4 oz)
Lay the avacado slices out on top of the mostly-set eggs. Sprinkle a heavy layer of cheese over the avacado. Put the pan under the broiler until the eggs are fully set and the cheese is melted and bubbling, 3 minutes for me. If your broiler is hotter or colder your timing will vary - keep an eye on it. Slice and serve.

The only way to make tofu.

1 14-16 oz. block extra firm tofu

Freeze the tofu. Then thaw it. This may not be important, but I've done it every time so far and I'd hate if the recipe failed 'cause you didn't do it.

Press out as much of the water as you can.

Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch thick slices. You'll end up with 8 or 9 slices.

1 bunch (4-8) scallions

Remove the icky bits from the scallions. Chop into 1.5 inch rounds. Mash the white bits with the flat of the knife.

4 Tb soy sauce
1 Tb spice paste
1 Tb sugar
(spice to taste)

Put the soy sauce, spice paste, sugar, and (spices to taste) in a cup or bowl and mix thoroughly.

3-5 cloves garlic

Chop the garlic and (ginger) so that it's between matchhead and a bit bigger.

peanut or vegetable oil
tofu slices

Put 1/4 inch of oil in a cast iron frying pan and heat until it just starts to smoke. Don't jump the gun, and don't use less oil. If you don't have a cast iron frying pan, go buy one, they're cheap and the best kind of frying pan for browning. Put the tofu in the hot oil (try not to get hit by the spatter) and fry until the bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip and brown the other side. Remove and drain. At this point, the tofu should be a fairly dark, even brown, with no pale raw tofu color. The slices should be stiff, crunchy, and fairly tasteless.

(Chop the slices into quarters.)

chopped garlic
chopped (ginger)
2-3 Tb oil

chopped scallion

Put oil in the bottom of a wok, and heat until it just starts to smoke. Add the garlic and (ginger) and stir madly until browned.

Add the scallion and cook for about a minute, just until it wilts a little.

tofu slices
soy sauce mixture

Add the tofu slices and stir a couple times, just so they're hot again.
Add the soy sauce mixture and cook, stirring every 30 seconds, until the liquid has all been absorbed. Serve with rice.

Parentheses means optional.
Italics means it's not a new ingredient.

Simon Norfolk

A few weeks ago D and I went to Look3: The festival of the photograph. Among the things that struck me most was a brief (video recorded) presentation by a photographer who, first showing a picture of himself, explained that as you could see, he was a gay cosmonaut. He isn't, of course, but the picture does make him look that way. In fact, he is certainly not a cosmonaut. I have no data on the issue of his sexuality.

He then presented two series of photographs, both of which I thought were incredibly amazing - second, and less impressive to me, were his photos of mayan ruins, all taken at night, lit up with 20,000 watts of portable lighting equipment. These should be available on the national geographic magazine website soon, but aren't as of yet. They are beautiful. But before he showed those, he showed a quick series of photos he'd taken recreating famous English landscape paintings; not just the composition but the politics.

He has a web site, at http://www.simonnorfolk.com/. The interface is flash, though relatively unobtrusive for that, and excerpts of that series are available, as are others. I just read/looked at most of them, and recommend you do the same.


With apologies to Harper's Index.


Number of days spent in Provence, France: 8

Number of hours from walking out my front door to walking into the front door in St Remy de Provence: 20

Number of those hours spent asleep: 0

Number of hours from arrival until I gave up on going to sleep at a normal time for a local: 3

Number of times the stewardesses gave out some kind of food or another on the 7-hour transoceanic flight: 6-8


Rough age of the Roman Amphitheater we visited: 2,000 years

Number of people it seats: 10,000

Rank, in quality, according to King Louis XIV, compared to other walls, of the back wall of the amphitheater: 1

Height of the back wall of the amphitheater, in meters: 37

Average age (roughly) of the various theaters castles and palaces we visited: 1,000 years

Sum age (roughly) of the various theaters castles and palaces we visited: 10,000 years

Number of villages and cities we spent sufficient time in to say we visited them, that I remember: 9

Number of restaurants in St. Remy: at least 30

Number of restaurants in St. Remy that served at least one vegetarian main course which was not couscous-based: 1

Number of nights we ate at this restaurant: 2

Number of desserts that I ate a share of on Friday: 7

Number of these that rank in the seven best desserts I have ever eaten: 6

Actual exchange rate used by my bank of Euro to dollars: 1:1.3597

Ratio of cost of goods and/or services, in Euro and in France, to cost of goods and/or services in dollars and in the US: 1:1

Cost, in Euro, of a 500 ml Coke in the Frankfurt airport terminal: 2.50

Rough number of postcards purchased by our group over the week: 60

Number of postcards purchased by me: 0

Rough number of digital photos taken by our group over the week: 2000

Number taken by me: 5

Number taken by me on my camera: 0

Count, in hours, of internet availability in the self-catering apartment we stayed in: 0

Number of knives in the "self-catering" apartment we stayed in: 2

Number of these which were a paring knife: 1

Number of these which were a bread knife: 1

Number of these which were suitable for chopping vegetables: 0

Number of cutting boards: 0

Rough number of gallons of water dumped in clothing during the washer/dryer's "dry" cycle: 2

Number of articles of clothing successfully dried in the washer/dryer: 0

Difference, in minutes, between the time we needed to arrive at the airport for our outgoing flight, and the time the shuttle bus from the hotel we were sleeping at started service: 90

Cost, in Euro, for 45 minutes of internet access in the hotel we were staying at: 5

50 books (k not really)

Two years ago I posted most of the books I read, though often only to mention. Last year I realized I'd been getting competitive for no good reason, and reading books only to inflate my count. That struck me as a stupid reason to read - there are lots of other things I enjoy doing with my time. I also ended up reading many fewer books in 2006 than 2005, and visiting the library hardly at all.

Last week I went to the library, and checked out 7 books. 1 of them I realized I had read already. 4 of them I read that day, and were a) short and b) pleasant, but hardly worth mentioning - if you want to read them you've heard of them, and otherwise why should I waste your time. One I haven't read yet, and I'll probably not post if and when I do.

I just finished Charlie Stross' book Glasshouse. This is the best book I have read in... a long time. Not only was I unable to put it down, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Go read this book. Check it out of the library if you like. Buy it if you'd prefer. But go read this book.

Brief synopsis: Robin wakes up in a post-singularity society to discover that a previous version of himself has signed up for extensive memory-redaction. And also that people are trying to kill him. Things ensue.

Why it's good: Tight plotting. The best depiction of a post-singularity society I've ever read. Deeply fascinating and wonderful gender politics.

There are other wonderful things, but I'd be spoiling bits, so I'll stop. Go read it!

Defining God

Most discussions of the (Judaic/Christian/Muslim) God of Abraham are either atheist vs. theist discussions (does God exist?) or theist-only discussions (what is the nature of God?). I have yet to find a definitional discussion of God from a language perspective - what do we mean when we say "God"? This could be referred to as a semiotic or epistemological discussion, but I'm trying to keep myself jargon free.

What I'm trying to think of is properties of God which everyone agrees on. If you say the word "God" and mean something different, I submit that maybe you are not talking about the same thing as most people, and maybe that is you misusing the word - that doesn't mean your beliefs aren't valid, but it does mean that maybe you should put some effort into being clearer. I have no particular person in mind with the preceding paragraph. I'm just saying.

So, here are some properties that I think describe what people almost always include in their notions of God. I am intending to capture things which are necessary, but this list is probably not sufficient.

God is:

  • A source of moral authority
    Doing what God tells you (or informs you, or otherwise leads you to believe) is right is right. There need be no other discussion; If God says that wearing pink on Sundays is right out, then it is.

  • Better than you
    God is typically a Supreme Being. Even when God has flaws (which is rare), those flaws are smaller than human flaws. More typically, God is defined as perfect. Where not defined that way, it is almost always simply understood - God is better than you, no matter how good you are. Otherwise, s/he/it wouldn't be God.

  • Worthy of worship
    God is something you worship. By worshiping, communing or contemplating God, it is understood that you become closer to God, and therefore closer to perfection.

  • External to you
    God is not within you. Many faiths hold that you are a part of God, but even then you are merely a small part of God; God is larger than you.

There are probably other characteristics of God which are commonly or universally necessary. Suggestions appreciated.

music meme

If I'm going to delurk, it may as well be for a meme, right?

Step 1: Put your music player of choice on random.
Step 2: Post the first line from the first 25 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing the song.
Step 3: Post and let everyone you know guess what song and artist the lines come from.
Step 4: Strike out the songs when someone guesses correctly.
Step 5: Webcheating is frowned upon! God kills puppies when you cheat.

1: The glove compartment isn't accurately named
2: Before you accuse me
3: And now, the nations of the world
4: I woke up this morning, grey dawn, prayer on my breath
5: Gimme one reason to stay here

6: Reno dakota there's not an iota of kindness in you

7: Here in this prison built by my own hands
8: To the north sea we're faring
9: To Life! To Life! L'Chayim!
10: Theres a green plaid jacket on the back of the chair

11: Some glad morning when this life is o'er
12: It's Friday night So creepy outside It's thundering and lightning
13: Take a walk out the gate you go and never stop
14: If not now then when
15: Dejected gloomy and glum, grown depressed and under the gun

16: Like a fool I went and stayed too long
17: Beautiful girl, lovely dress, High school smiles, oh yes
18: The time is swiftly drawing on, When I must faint and die
19: Big Boy Showing Of All Around The City Still The Same Versace Suit
20: She don't need anybody to tell her she's pretty

21: Didn't I swear and didn't I fall for love
22: A new crusade to the Holy Land, An army of men under my command
23: She's electric. She's in a family full of eccentrics
24: Throw my ticket out the window, Throw my suitcase out there, too
25: Hello darlin'. I been gone for awhile.


I don't usually do MLP in this space. I try to always have something interesting to say, or (as witness by the fact that I often go weeks or months silent) say nothing at all. This is an exception.

Bruce Schneier is a very smart man, and he says we should not be afraid. He says that more eloquently and convincingly than I ever could, so I'm just gonna link to him.

What he's talking about makes me so angry that I can't even think about it, or I'll spend all week obsessing. Just go read it.