vla22: photo of Atli's throne, Torcello, Venice (Default)
2014-12-21 12:16 pm
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Mushroom soup recipe

 Mushroom soup:

This is vegetarian, can trivially be vegan, and it can be easy to make if you have problems chopping stuff.


1 leek
garlic (I usually use about 1/3 of a tube of garlic puree)
a lot of mushrooms. I'd usually use 1-1.5kg of mushrooms, a mix of ordinary, shiitake, chestnut, forestiere - basically strongly-flavoured mushrooms. Sometimes I rehydrate a pack of dried mixed expensive mushrooms as well, if I remember.
some oil (I usually use olive, but I suspect you can't notice)
stock (I use Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon, which is gluten-free.)
a bottle of cheap red wine (optional)
cream or creme fraiche (optional)
seasoning: I usually use pepper, paprika, and mixed herbs (or fresh basil, if I have any)

If you're using dried mushrooms, rehydrate them now. When you drain them, save the water.
Chop your leek. 
Massacre your mushrooms. I usually chop some (for texture), and food process the others. However, if chopping is a problem, food process the lot. If you want varying sized chunks, perhaps use button mushrooms, which you can just wash and put in whole.
Fry the leek, mushrooms, and garlic in the oil in a 2-3 litre saucepan/pot/thing. I usually start frying after I've attacked the first batch of mushrooms, so that they start rendering down, and make it less heavy to stir. I don't usually stir much - just enough to stop it sticking.
Put the kettle on, with around 1litre of water in it.
Once the last lot of mushrooms have been stirred in, I usually pour in a bottle of red wine (if you're not using red wine, then add 750ml more water). Then I season generously with pepper, paprika and herbs. I don't usually make the bouillon up properly - I just put in enough bouillon for around 1litre of water, and then empty the kettle on top, and stir it all up - this usually isn't hard work as there's so much liquid.
Cover, and leave to simmer for at least 30 minutes.

At this point, you can either serve it, freeze it, or stir in some cream/creme fraiche and then serve it. It will serve 6-8 depending on whether it's a full meal or not, and on appetite. You can add cheese if you want more protein.

vla22: photo of Atli's throne, Torcello, Venice (Default)
2013-11-14 05:00 pm
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Learning to debug CSS

 Wherever my tech skills lie, it's not really with CSS. I understand the basic principles, but I can mostly produce utilitarian things in CSS, rather than beautiful ones. And mostly, I'm not that interested in trying. Nevertheless, I've had to do a fair bit of debugging over the last couple of weeks, and thought I'd share what I've picked up, in case people find it interesting. 

Note that this isn't about creating your Beautiful Style in CSS - it's about discovering that in fact the webpage with CSS carefully crafted by someone else looks great in Chrome but looks like someone has vomited on the page in IE8. Or all the boxes are overlapping, so you can't input anything into any form fields. And you're the only person available to fix it.

This is naturally trivial in Firefox or Chrome (and even reasonably plausible in IE10) - you can use the developer tools to dynamically edit the CSS and see what happens when you move it from pixels into ems,* or increase or decrease the padding.  You can also search for problems with particular elements in particular browsers, and try out the answers. 

In older browsers, you basically have to edit the CSS file and reload and retry. I think the important virtue here was persistence - I kept trying different things, and kept searching for different suggestions about what to fix. Some things responded quickly to this - 10-15 minutes to fix the problem. Others have stretched out over a few days. 

I still don't know how to craft a beautiful CSS thing from scratch, but I'm reasonably confident I can fix some common layout problems. Not necessarily to the standard the designer would like, but so that the web page is at least functional, even if it's not pretty.

*This turns out to be quite a neat trick that will solve a lot of your CSS troubles.
vla22: photo of Atli's throne, Torcello, Venice (Default)
2013-10-15 08:07 pm
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Ada Lovelace Day

 I tweeted earlier today about three people whose work I admire. I thought I'd write a bit more this evening, and add a fourth.

My mother, former Senior Lecturer at City University, London, modeller at Rolls Royce and Associates 

She was working in tech in the late 60s and early 70s, including that mathematical modelling stint at RR&A. A child-related career break (OK, she took time off to have me), led to a career change, which eventually led to her lecturing in medical statistics. She co-authored an awful lot of papers in a short space of time. It's an excellent concrete example of how you can change what you do, and how you can be successful.

Dr Laura James, a founding director of makespace.org, co-CEO of okfn.org/

Laura was my manager in my very first job in tech. She's a visionary who can turn that vision into a sensible, achievable plan. Having had other managers since then, I've started to see how very, very rare that is. Makespace is an incredibly cool project, and I'm really starting to warm to the Open Knowledge Foundation after reading her blog posts. 

Jennie Fletcher, lead developer for cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/

I've worked with Jennie for the past 18 months. I've been QA-ing her code, and I've been impressed with the consistent quality of the code she's produced. I'm also impressed with how the site works - I've had cause to use several sites which put scanned manuscripts etc. online, and, while CUDL's not perfect, it's definitely the best one I've used so far. That's at least in part because of the work Jennie's done on big, structural things. If I were composing a list of top 5 programmers whose work I've been involved in testing, Jennie would be on that list. I find that quite inspiring.

Professor Dame Athene Donald, professor at the Cavendish Lab, shortly to become Master of Churchill College Cambridge

She's shown me that women who are at the top of their field still experience everyday sexism, still feel uncertainty and a lack of confidence, still run across those unwritten rules. This makes me feel that I'm part of a community of STEM people, that I might be able to achieve something. It also reminds me of the equality that we should be striving to achieve.

vla22: photo of Atli's throne, Torcello, Venice (Default)
2012-03-27 03:14 pm
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This blog is about my development as a programmer, and about social issues to do with data, women and other discriminated-against groups in STEM and related fields. Note that I'm currently doing an assessed project for my degree, so if I state that something is related to that, please don't give me detailed solutions to any problems I may pose. General hints or things to read (that aren't step-by-step cookbooks) are fine - telling me how to write my program is strictly off-limits.

For some biographical details, see my profile. I've blogged pseudonomously for around 10 years; I feel the time is now right to start saying some things more publicly.

Please note: I enjoy debate, but I dislike trolls. Please do not feed the trolls.