The Future of my Wallet

This week I've been trying an experiment to replace my wallet with my phone. By this I don't mean I've saved all my cards into Android Pay, or that I'm uploading all my barcode featuring loyalty cards into Beep'nGo. I don't mean I'm only shopping at retailers that accept my 5.5% discounted Woolworths E-Gift Cards whose balance I track in Google Keep.

I simply mean that I'm putting my phone in my right pocket of my pants, and my wallet in my left pocket. The inverse of which I've done on the regular almost every day since 2004. The results so far? It's hard to undo over a decade of below-conscious programming. I've ended up with my wallet and phone in the same pocket several times, a feeling of dread like I've lost my wallet a few times more. More often than that, I've found my wallet in my right hand pocket and my phone in the left. Not even the tap-tap-walk check picks it up.

I will persevere though. It's an important challenge for me. The cable for my headphones comes out of the left hand side, and by having my phone in the right hand pocket of my pants it reduces the slack in the cord by about an inch, which is the precise amount of slack that gets caught on my thumb, door handles and draws. So yeah, if I can re-write these neurons as I want to then I'll be dealing less frequently with headphone hooking! Plus, what else am I supposed to do for excitement on office days?

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Fresh Material 2

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Fresh Material

It was just a coincidence that Adelaide endured a spring storm with its strongest gusts during the morning of my neighbourhood's bin day. I woke up yesterday to a road of toppled wheelie bins. Many loose items for recycling were flapping, skidding and cartwheeling down the streets.

I've walked the dog four times since then, and even this afternoon some of the bins were still lying down, lids open, spreading their insides to the world. Block after block the gutters are littered with plastics and metals. Paper and cardboard has been pulped by the rain and passing cars.

What have I learnt from it all? After walking a square kilometre I now know that all my neighbours are much more similar to me than I ever realised. On the surface we're different demographics, races, cultures. Yet we all shop at the same supermarkets, we all get the same catalogues. We all throw our dockets and envelopes in the recycling even though they contain vaguely identifying information on them. Strawberries are definitely in season. We eat the same cereals and crackers and canned vegetables... Either that or the wind carried my recycling a lot further than I thought possible.

There are a couple of outliers, like the ramshackle house two streets over with a recycling bin filled to the brim with nothing but cask wine boxes. And one of my neighbours had an LPG gas cylinder in their recycling bin. Better there than in the potentially-compacted trash I suppose…

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I Approve

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Working Title

In January I mentioned that I'd achieved my dream of writing a full length novel. I followed some great advice at that point, and I put that novel away in a metaphorical drawer and forgot about it. This is supposed to help you come back to a work with fresh eyes and quickly find all the things still wrong with it.

During this period of leaving it in a drawer I distracted myself by commencing work on my second novel. The more I wrote of it, the more I preferred it over my first one. The characters were stronger, the tension was more tangible, the gags were funnier.

For eight months I ignored my first work to focus on the new story. Every time I completed a writing session of frantic scribbling I walked away with increasing confidence that this story was an improvement of the first.

Last week I reached the end. The first draft - all handwritten - was complete. Since then I've changed gears, moving into second draft, type and edit mode. Untangling all my messy jottings and trying to arrange them in the right order in Scrivener.

It's been sobering. Now I'm in a place of self-doubt. I can't tell if the second book I wrote is actually any better, or if I just liked the novelty.

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Replication Joke

In the office, earlier this afternoon, I was reading a whitepaper about deadlocks when an application uses a clustered database, and how to architect against them. It was interesting. I decided to get my lunch and read the rest.

I walked into the kitchen and another guy was heading for the fridge at the same time as me. He stopped and I stopped, and we both waited politely for the other person to make the first move.

This went on for 300 seconds.

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Bradism Curry

I've been making the same style of curry for work lunches basically every second week for years now. I've been refining for a long time, and I've got it down to an art. I'm amazed I haven't posted about it before.

Making it isn't particularly complicated, or require any special ingredients or techniques. There's just a few tips and tricks that turn this curry from sustenance to daily lunchtime happiness.

For my birthday I decided the gift I really wanted was a twenty litre stock pot. I didn't realise how easy they were to find, and this would increase the amount of bulk curry I could make at once. As you'll read, this meal is all about efficiency, and increasing my pot size was only going to improve that further.

For context, here's a photo of my new pot with my old pot inside it.

The old pot made about 12-15 meals, so I expected this one to make around 24-30. The following photos are from the first time I used it. I underestimated how many ingredients I could fit in there.

Now, if you're interested, follow along and learn the way to make your own bulk bradism curry.

There are a few staple ingredients that you'll need:
A jar of curry paste (doesn't matter what brand, so long as it's not a sauce.)
Tinned tomatoes

The rest of what goes in is up to you. Whatever meat and vegetables are on special, basically. Depends on the season I'm usually adding some of the following: sweet potato, potato, capsicum, cabbage, celery, green beans, peas, pumpkin, cauliflower. I also add multiple cans of drained lentils, legumes, chick peas. Meat is usually chicken or beef, sometimes turkey mince.

You can chop most things reasonably large, about 1-2cm cubes or pieces. The cooking process is slow and ingredients that are too small will get ruined. You also don't need to prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking. The long cook time means you can prepare the meat and lighter vegetables while the gravy and potatoes is cooking.

First pro-tip: put the chopped up potato and sweet potato into a microwave-proof bowl. Before cooking, add about 20-30mls of water to the bowl, cover with a paper towel and microwave for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat. Stir through occasionally. This will be the difference of the potatoes being fluffy and soft, or hard and chewy.

0:00 - I don't use any extra oil, I just crack open the curry paste and tip the oil from the top of the jar into the pan. Fry the onion and chili on medium heat using that oil. It's better to cook the onion and chili from cold. Don't wait for the oil to heat up. If you do, small bits of onion and chili will jump off the surface when they hit the heat.

5:00 - Once the onion and chili is softening, add the rest of the jar of paste and dump in your microwaved potatoes. Stir vigorously to bash the potato against the surface of the pot, and this helps fry the outsides a little. When the ingredients start to stick add tinned tomatoes to form a gravy. If you have any dried legumes or dried lentils you can add them now too. Tinned ones wait for later.

10:00 - Put the heat on low and leave to simmer with the lid on.

Allow for ten minutes of simmering. Stir occasionally You can chop the next vegetables at this stage. Ingredients like cabbage and celery will be next in, as they take longer to wilt and soften.
20:00 - When the time is up, add the drained beans and the cabbage, celery.

Allow for another ten minutes of simmering and more stirring. The exact amount of stirring, heat comes down to instinct and practice. It can't be too cold, but don't let the pot boil. If it's too dry add more tomatoes, but remember that celery and cabbage will produce a lot of moisture as they cook.

30:00 - After the second phase of simmering you can add the remaining soft vegetables unless they're frozen. Frozen vegetables should wait until the very end.
Stir through the new vegetables and simmer another five-to-ten minutes. You can use this time to cut up the meat.
You can also use this time to start the rice, if cooking it with the absorption method.

35:00 - Start the rice and wait for it to boil, then turn down the heat and crack the lid. This is the point to add the meat and the frozen vegetables. Simmer both the curry and the rice. The curry should be bubbling but not boiling. The meat will seal and cook slowly, just enough for safety, but not so much that it dries out when microwaved.

45:00 - The rice should be done now. The curry too. Taste a potato and some vegetables and make sure they're not too underdone. A little bit of freshness is perfect, because they will finish cooking during reheating. Dish up the curry and rice into containers. If you have done the stirring and simmering correctly you should see no burning at the bottom.

I only got eighteen meals out of this batch. I didn't get close to the top of my pot. I could definitely have fit another two cabbages in there. Next time.

The final secret is, when microwaving this for lunch tomorrow, follow these steps for the best experience:
First, open the curry and splash a small amount of water (10-20ml), then stir the water to the bottom of the mix. The water will add extra steam when cooking and soften the vegetables. Complete the stirring by carving a hole in the middle of the mix, like it's a donut in the container. This allows better heat transfer.
Cover the container with a paper towel, this also helps with steaming and prevents any precious bit from spitting out into the office microwave.
Put the power down to medium-high or medium, depending on the wattage of your microwave. Set it up for ten minutes and let the curry cook. Stir every 3 minutes. If you hear chick peas exploding or anything else popping, that means the power level is too high.

When the microwaving is done there should be slight simmering within the container of the liquid. And it should be hot. At this point your coworkers may comment on how good your lunch smells, and you can tell them it's just paste out of a jar. That's it!

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Weekend Post Workout Sunshine Tunes

They say every day is a gift, but I'm notoriously tricky to buy for.

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