[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook or Livejournal. (Although he did succumb to the lure of Google+.) He hates cell-phones.

Zeitgeist: 27 September 2013
Updates erratically
Recipes: 20 April 2014
Updates on Fridays(ish)
Mobile Computing - An Extended Metaphor
27 September 2013
[Smashy, again]

The problem with the phrase, "The future of computing is mobile," isn't "mobile," it's "computing."

You see, most people don't want a computer. What they want is a web-browser, an email client, a GPS, maybe a few games, a camera, and really, that's about it. (Oh, and maybe a phone.) In a general sense, they don't want to do computing. And there's nothing wrong with that, and I don't mean to imply that there is. There is nothing inherently virtuous in wanting to do computing.

The easiest way to give people the stuff that they want, however, is to take a computer, which is what a smart-phone is, and cripple it.

A computer is a multi-purpose tool. It is a Swiss pocketknife with an infinite number of attachments, even though almost everyone really just wants a knife blade or two, a bottle opener, a screwdriver, and sometimes a toothpick or pair of scissors. Vanishingly few people want that little spiky thing that's used to remove stones from horses' hooves or a flint for starting fires. Just as very few people want to actually run a web-server, or host an email list.

So, metaphorically speaking, the mobile computing companies sell you a Swiss Army Knife with all but a few of the attachments disabled - perhaps they break them off, or maybe they glue them down with a bit of not-particularly-strong glue. They know that it's cheaper to make a single model of Swiss Army Knife, glue down or break off a bunch of bits and charge you less than they would for the unbroken version. Which sounds backwards, at first glance. Until you realize that what they can then do is sell you each attachment individually.

So if I bought the knife, and decided I needed the horse hoof thingie I might be tempted to unglue it. Or if it was broken off, make my own and attach it - after all the basic structure of the knife is there and I paid for it, right?

Which brings us to jailbreaking various mobile devices. If the company has sold me a computer, why shouldn't I be able to use it as much or as little like a computer as I want? The answer, of course, is the EULA. Or rather, the answer is the revenue stream which the EULA is intended to ensure. Because in this day and age, consumables are where the money is. If you don't believe me price out printers - a few years back, we got a nice laser printer with a full load of toner ... for essentially the price of a full load of toner. That's right, the printer was more-or-less free, because they knew, as long as it kept working, I'd be buying toner. And they were always sure to remind me to use Their Genuine Brand. (The same is true of most single serving coffee-makers - the money is in the cartridges. But that's a bit off topic.)

All of which leads us, in turn, to a joke that was au courant in the late '80s in certain circles, which went like this: The Macintosh is proof that you can work on a computer all day, and still know nothing about computers. That's even more true today than it was then. These days you can spend every waking minute glued to some sort of computing device and still know nothing about computers.

Which is why there will always be technicians and engineers.

And all of that is just fine.

© 2013 Jeff Berry
Not Quite Falafel
20 April 2014
[Almost Falafel]

For one of our Lenten feast days, we indulged ourselves in delivery pizza. The menu, as seems to be fairly common, at least in this part of the UK, contained not only the usual pizzas, calzones, and so forth - the things one would find on a menu in NYC - but also donner meat, falafel, and, of course, the ubiquitous chips - although without the 'fish and.'

Now, we like falafel pretty well, but since it was a feast day, we opted instead for meat and cheese. Still, it put the idea in my head, and since I've usually got chickpeas around, we decided to have a homemade version a few days later. There was a complicating factor, though. I'd recently been messing about with a medieval recipe for 'Frytour of erbes,' which says, essentially, mix ground herbs with flour, water, salt, and yeast, and fry them. I used sourdough starter, and it was pretty good, but that's neither here nor there. What is here, or possibly there, is that I though that mushing the two concepts together might have a positive result or results.

And so it did.

[Lots of pictures]

Not Quite Falafel

  • 2 cups cooked and drained chickpeas
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 1/2 cup or more gram (chickpea) flour
  • a good hand-full of kale or some other fairly sturdy leafy green
  • 1 Tbs (or a bit less) of salt
  • 1 Tbs (or a bit more) of cumin
  • 1/2 Tbs (more or less) of ground coriander
  • enough water, about which more shortly
  • oil for frying
If you are using canned chickpeas, you can probably just drain them and be done with it. If you are working from dried, then soak them for a few hours, or overnight, then simmer them for about forty-five minutes, until they are fairly soft, but not completely without crunch. If they are too soft, so will the end result be. Let them cool, if necessary, then reduce them to crumbs. If you have a food processor or food mill, by all means use it. I did not (although, serendipitously, we found a manual one at the charity shop the next day), therefore, I used a potato masher. It must have built character.

Dice, mince, or chop your onion as fine as you may. If you have a food processor, a quick blitz might not be amiss. If the bits are too large, the fauxlafel will tend to fall apart while cooking. Add it to your chickpea bits. Add the spices.

Take your greens and chiffonade them, again as finely as you may, for the same reason. You could use herbs, fresh or dried, instead of leafy greens, if you prefer, or omit them entirely. I like the contrast of colour, flavour, and texture, myself.

Add the gram flour and a tablespoon or so of water. Mix everything together with your hands and try to form it into a ball that holds its shape. If it's too dry, add a tiny drizzle of water; if it's too wet, add a bit of gram flour. If it falls apart completely, it may need quite a bit more flour to give it some structure. If you don't have gram flour, wheat flour would probably work, many recipes call for a few tablespoons of such. Some also call for an egg as a binder, but that would make it non-Lenten and non-vegan, which may matter to you. It's also not needed, since the gram flour works perfectly well on its own.

If you've got a deep fryer, deep fry them. If not, shallow frying them in small batches will work. If you are going that route, form your fauxlafel into patties or fritter shapes rather than balls, so that more of them will be under the oil at any given time. They shouldn't take long to cook, perhaps a minute on each side. It will depend on how hot your oil is and how large your fritters are, of course. If you got the spicing right, you should be able to serve them as-is with no extra salt or what have you, although some sort of sauce or garnish, perhaps tahini based, is not a bad idea.

We served them with some marinated scratch-and-dent mushrooms from the farm shop, and the acid of the marinade made a lovely counterpoint to the rich, fried fauxlafel.

© 2014 Jeff Berry

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