First image: how to leave your lock on a hook in a shared bike cage. Other images: how not too.

Tahini Roasted Brocolli

Tonight’s experimental side dish was roasted brocolli with a tahini-based dressing. First I cut 3 smallish heads of brocolli into florets and put them in a bowl. Then I made this dressing (amounts approximate):

  • 2-3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3-4 garlic cloves finely minced
  • Salt, black pepper and chile flake (maybe half a teaspoon salt, generous grind of pepper and maybe half teaspoon of chile).
  • 2-3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice*
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil*

Actually the last two ingredients I kept adding until the mixture (whisked with fork) was runny enough to reasonably coat the brocolli. The sauce was kind of runny peanut butter similar to what you might see used for a dipping sauce for satay (it would in fact make good satay dipping sauce). To get it tossed in the brocolli well, I put it in a big mixing bowl, drizzled part of the sauce on and moved around with a spatula and fork, then added the rest and so on. Then I turned it out on a sil-pat on a cookie sheet and baked in a 375F oven.

The result after 20+ minutes roasting (turned occasionally) was crispy in places with pockets of extra tahini but tasty all over. Mmmmmm.

Europe did not develop without aid

I was reading a book review about idealistic aid schemes, focusing on Jeffrey Sachs. In it I found this:

It is also hard to avoid the fact that the now rich countries of the world escaped from poverty without even a small push, let alone one delivered from abroad.

At this point I lose all belief that the reviewer knows what they are talking about. Europe may not have had older rich countries offering development aid. Instead, Europe (and European settlers in the Americas) extracted massive amounts of wealth in the form of resources and labor at obviously below market rates for hundreds of years from the Americas, Asia and Africa. You can only say Europe escaped poverty without “even a small push” if you ignore colonialism, treaties made at the point of a gun and slavery.

Lazy Beet and Black Bean Stew

We made a large batch of random stew the other day. There were veggies that needed to be eaten so we just made it into stew. Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups dried black beans, cooked in veggie stock (ours in a pressure cooker until almost done). Drain and save bean water.
  • 1 large onion medium dice
  • 6+ small to medium red beets, washed and chopped into 3/4 or so chunks
  • Big pile of carrots cut to similar size
  • 2-3 small to medium sweet potatoes also cut to the same size (we left the skins on)
  • 3 or so cups of chopped cabbage


Sauté onion in oil till soft.

Add bean water (stock) and all veggies except cabbage. Add extra water to cover.

Cook till half done. Add beans.

Add cabbage and cook until beans and rest of veggies tender (the sweet potato will mostly fall apart).

The result is a beet-heavy stew with an almost creamy broth. It’s pretty filling and really simple. We topped with sour cream.

The Internet IS the real world

This morning rocza brought to my attention a Pacific Standard article about women and harassment on the internet. The tweet that caught my attention was the claim that the EFF opposes amendments to the proposed Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) regarding online harassment as being unconsitutional restrictions on free speech. I’m a pretty strong supporter of free speech and accept that strong support of free speech will practically mean that a lot of “bad behavior” will go unchecked. She pointed me at the EFF’s article about it where I found this justification for why part of the proposal is unconsitutional:

The court in Cassidy found this idea constitutionally problematic: a person is free to disregard something said on Twitter in a way far different than a person who is held in constant fear of the persistent ringing of a telephone intruding in their home. In those instances where people can turn away to avoid offending speech, the Supreme Court has made clear society “is expected to protect our own sensibilities simply by averting our eyes.”

Well I’ve got news for the EFF and judges. You can disconnect your phone. You can pay someone to screen your calls. You can change your phone number.

But as far as I’m concerned, a phone is the same as any other communication platform. The law may not (yet) agree but it is true. I have for the better part of my adult life used the internet’s communication platforms (email, “blog” websites, IRC, twitter, etc.) to keep up with my friends and family far more so than I’ve used offline (“real”) ones like phones. The attitude behind this claim is that twitter is somehow different than a phone. The internet isn’t “real”. From the Pacific Standard article:

Abusers tend to operate anonymously, or under pseudonyms. But the women they target often write on professional platforms, under their given names, and in the context of their real lives. Victims don’t have the luxury of separating themselves from the crime. When it comes to online threats, “one person is feeling the reality of the Internet very viscerally: the person who is being threatened,” says Jurgenson. “It’s a lot easier for the person who made the threat—and the person who is investigating the threat—to believe that what’s happening on the Internet isn’t real.”

The skepticism of law enforcement about the internet’s reality runs throughout the article - most of the author’s stories of abuse result in the police not even taking a report or asking “what’s twitter?”

It’s not okay to call someone up repeatedly and harass them. Why is it okay to tweet at them or email them or stalk them on comments on numerous websites? Oh, right. I can just not look at twitter or blogs. I can change my email address. I wonder why that isn’t the proposed “solution” for phone harassment?

An oddball’s view of Science Online

I’m a non-scientist, barely blogger who got into Science Online via the local (Seattle) events. In many ways I’m a target for science communicators (researchers who want to get their work out, people who use science to influence policy, etc). But Science Online to me represents a way for non-scientists to have more engagement in science. This community is fundamentally oriented towards the idea that non-scientists can understand science and can participate in it (by communicating it, using it to inform political decisions and even doing it). The scientists and science communicators in Science Online are fundamentally democratic in that they (just my perception but I think true!) believe that science is an important part of human society that everyone can be part of. The Internet and technological change make it a lot easier for this democratic attitude to flourish. Want to learn more about any kind of science? There’s google and Wikipedia to start. But there are also scientists in just about any field quietly (or not) writing about it. You can ask scientists questions on twitter. In the other direction, you, as a non-scientist, can express what you value coming out of science. Non-scientist questions and concerns are valuable in this world. The ivory tower isn’t a tower and the walls are porous.

So that’s what I value in this community in the abstract. But practically and personally I stay involved because of people. I started attending Seattle events in 2012 and attended the main conference last year in 2013. The people who run and attend the Seattle events are a big reason I love Science Online. I have new friends I never would have had who broaden my view of the world and who are just all around awesome people. The people I met at the 2013 conference and “see” online make me happier (and better informed) everyday even if just by tweeting some snark about a silly press release.

Between the local folks and the attitude of everyone online, I’m more confident sharing science-y things with friends who aren’t as plugged in. Do I need a post that clearly explains (without being dismissive) why the latest Fukushima rumor is bullshit? Someone I know via Science Online has written something or knows the best post to share. And that it seems is one of the goals of many in the community and the organization itself: engage the public in a lasting and meaningful way. You’ve got my attention so keep it up.

Chinese labor trade and guano mining

Last night while reading Charles Mann’s 1493 (up late with fussy baby so we read aloud), we learned about the harsh conditions during the mid-1800s and onwards in the guano mines in Peru that fed (largely) Europe’s and the United States’ insatiable demand for fertilizer. The newly independent Peru had numerous islands where birds had been excreting for centuries and it makes great fertilizer (this is of course before the Haber-Bosch process to create nitrogen fertilizer). While chattel slavery was slowly going away, the conditions in guano mining were sufficiently horrific that the mine operators could not find genuinely voluntary workers (workers on guano islands were forced to work with little rest and in horrific conditions - e.g. powdered bird poop is not good for your lungs). Legal slaves were becoming rare. The British had early in the 1800s banned slave trading (chattel slavery was fully outlawed in the British Empire in 1843) and to support the trade ban, Britain funded Royal Navy patrols of West African coasts to intercept slave ships. In Peru, chattel slaves were still legal but their “owners” were loath to waste them on guano mining. Enter deceptive contracts for indentured servants. According to Mann over 100,000 Chinese, often tricked or misinformed about the work, we’re shipped to Peru. Large numbers died on the ships (conditions compared to slave ships). Most worked on coastal cotton or sugar fields but thousands worked on the guano islands. Many were kept past their contract terms and under conditions very similar to slaves.

Just a bit of history I wasn’t really aware of and horrified me.

A quick note on the phrase “social justice warriors”

This is an elaboration of this tweet. Whenever I read someone (without irony) using the phrase “social justice warrior” I cringe. I can only think the author is dismissive of whichever social justice issue said “warrior” is concerned about. While I do believe there are cases where individuals over-react to a particular perceived outrage (or may not wait for “the facts” to emerge), the general CLASS the perceived outrage would belong to is always a real concern. To label a person — who points out and struggles against injustice in the world — with the dismissive “social justice warrior” is to dismiss the idea that injustice is worth fighting.

Of course, those who use that phrase aren’t actually opposed to pointing out or fighting injustice. They are only opposed to it when it’s a class of injustice they don’t care about or don’t think is important enough. But instead of explaining why that class of injustice isn’t really a problem they pretend every case is trivial or not important. One way to do that is to dismiss those pointing injustice out as being “social justice warriors”. That is, don’t mind that problem so-and-so is pointing out. He’s just a social justice warrior and they always over-react.

I have to admit a kind of droll sense of amusement


A lot of people who are upset that this blog exists have taken to posting links on other social media websites, where they are free to rail about my lack of evidence and sources in a space free from having to look at any of that pesky evidence or sources.

About 40-45% of the hits this blog…

This is really a great tumblr and these kinds of responses to it just prove why. Lots of education needed.