Not Evangelism

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Bonus: The Curious Case of the Canadian Cherries

I publish articles every Monday (cycling), Wednesday (user experience) and Friday (pragmatic environmentalism). Other days I might publish if I've something particularly burning-important to say.

In the middle of British cherry season, I was discouraged to find Canadian cherries right next to the British cherries in Tesco.

A less discerning shopper might easily pick up the immigrants, which would be a shame given that the British fruit are so seasonally fresh and tasty. And much less travelled.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What I Know About Cycling

There is always someone faster than you (unless you happen to be called Alberto Contador). Don't be too disheartened when they pass you in a blur of slippery Lycra and a whoosh of disc wheels.

Every time you wonder if you really want to go out on your bike, go. You'll be glad you did.

Nodding is good; waving is better. Shouting a cheery hello to a fellow cyclist (and hearing it returned) - particularly on a dreary, cold morning - is the best.

There is always someone slower than you.  Don't be too proud when you spin past them. Especially if they're twice your age, on a steel-built clunker.

Not every ride is a race.  Slow down and enjoy the scenery. Stopping for photo ops is also acceptable.

Wearing Lycra doesn't mean you can't wave to someone who isn't. Not wearing Lycra doesn't mean you can't wave to someone who is.

It will rain on you, but fewer times than you worry it will. Carry wet weather gear just in case.

Wave at other cyclists because you want to; not because you expect to get a response.  Smile when you get a response.

Sometimes, birdsong is the best OBE.

For most rides, I wear a helmet, because if I'm ever in an accident where a helmet would make a difference, I want to be wearing one.

You will get punctures, but not as often as you fear. Carry patches and a pump.

Thank considerate drivers; you have every right to expect consideration, but you can always say thanks when you receive it.

Cyclists make more considerate car drivers.

Hedges are a better option than cars. Always.

Carry a couple of elastic bands; they have many uses.

Smile.  You choose to cycle.

Friday, August 27, 2010

How to Make Sloe Gin (and Damson Gin too)

It's that time of year where the beautiful berries of the blackthorn can be seen cheekily gleaming from the hedgerows, and I sally forth to harvest a few to make my habitual ode to seasonality: sloe gin.

The fruit has been peeking from the hedgerows for the last couple of weeks in varying states of ripeness, and although I normally try and wait until September 1st, this week the temptation (and fear of losing a good crop to another picker!) was too much. As it happened, the first wild harvest was not sloes, but damsons; about the size of grapes, but heavier due to the weight of that big stone inside, and sporting that distinctive bluish blush.

The heavy work done, I sat down to make the first damson gin of 2010. Here's the trivially simple process so you can try it yourself.

What you'll need
  • Gin, as much as you fancy. It generally comes in bottles
  • Sloes, about equal in volume to your gin
  • A decent whack of sugar
  • A tight-sealable jar about twice the volume of your gin
  • A pointy thing, such as a cocktail stick (I use a wooden one).

How to do make sloe gin
  • Pick
  • Prick
  • Pour
  • Pause
  • Partake
Having picked and washed a quantity of sloes broadly equal in volume to a litre bottle of gin, I took a two-litre Kilner jar. Using the cocktail stick, I pricked each sloe a number of times and dumped them into the jar. This helps the juicy berry goodness to infuse in the gin, which is the whole point of the exercise.

When the jar was about half full of sloes, I poured in the sugar until the berries were pretty much covered, shaking the jar from time to time so that the sugar filled all the gaps between the berries. I used Fairtrade Golden Granulated sugar, but you'll doubtless choose sugar appropriate to your personal ethics and tastes. Or whatever is in the cupboard.

After a final shake, of the sugar and berries, I added the gin and gave it yet another good shake. The whole gin-berry-sugar concoction is now sitting in a dark cupboard. I'll give the jar a bit of a shake once a week or so to help the sugar dissolve. After a while, it'll have magically vanished into the by-then deep-purple liquid.

It'll take a fair while for the flavours to infuse properly, and you should expect to leave it three, four, or even six months before you strain off the fruit and begin sampling. The advantage of making sloe gin so early in the year is that it might just be ready in time for a Christmas tipple. Slurp!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Manifesto of Sorts

It's been called a Dammit List.

It's even been called a Brief Guide to World Domination.

Neither of those titles quite work for me (although I'm closer in spirit to the Dammit List, I think), and I've not yet come up with a suitably funky (or bombastic!) title, so I'm going to go with a manifesto, a statement of principles, a declaration of intent.

It's my ethos, what I'm all about. What you can expect from me; what I expect from myself; what you'll find in this here blog.

My employment has been in software development. I've spent the last decade designing and writing software, starting in the traditional (and now vanishing) role of analyst-programmer; working as technical consultant and architect; and then leading a team of people doing those roles. More recently I've been working in the red-hot area of usability and user experience (and isn't everyone an expert). So I've got some things to say on that topic, and some of them are backed up with actual experience and expertise. I'll be sharing them here.

On a more personal level, I've recently started to call myself a pragmatic environmentalist. I say "recently" not because I've only lately come to that way of being, but because I've only just discovered the phrase. For me, it perfectly describes that process of making a reasoned choice. I'm convinced that it's better to do something than to dither about doing the right thing, and so do nothing, victim to that horrible choice paralysis that comes from trying to balance too many options. So there'll be some of that on this blog too; practical examples of how I've balanced my environmental ethos with my first-world lifestyle. Without copping out.

I also like cycling. I'm a commuter and day rider rather than a club cyclist. In fact, I've never been a member of a cycling club, but I do a fair few miles on two wheels. I like being out in the open, travelling at a pace that allows me to appreciate the scenery and the changing seasons. You can expect some thoughts (words and pictures, perhaps) on that topic too.

And maybe even something about spoons.

All of the above will be delivered weekly, no less. Weekly. There, I've said it. A public commitment. It's happening.