walls.corpus

By Nathan L. Walls

  • Sunset, Jan. 2, 2021/Williams Township
  • On Bougher Hill/Williams Township
  • Sunrise, Dec. 19, 2020/Williams Township
  • Sunset, Dec. 27, 2020

Buy yourself a cast iron skillet

New Year’s Day breakfast was scrambled eggs cooked in a 12-inch cast iron skillet, along with some whole wheat toast. I preheat the skillet over medium-high heat on our electric range, then drop the temperature to medium as I pour the eggs in. Fluffy scrambled eggs take about 90 seconds from there, folding the eggs two or three times.

A $40 12-inch Lodge skillet will last me the rest of my life. It is heavy and heats evenly.

Cooking with cast iron is a consistently better experience than I remember using non-stick skillets. Well-seasoned cast iron with some butter or oil is enough. Along the way, I monitoring as I cook. Unless I’m intentionally searing a steak, that little bit of butter or oil on top of the skillet’s seasoning is enough to keep the skillet pretty clean and food easy to release.

Cast iron seems less convenient because you generally don’t want to dry cook in them, but I’ve not found that to be true in practice. I see TV advertisements for non-stick pans being able to cook eggs without butter or oil. Friends, I’ve never had non-stick skillets work that well. Additionally, the non-stick coatings will scratch and eventually wear down. I was using either wood or high temperature-tolerant nylon spatulas to avoid scratching the coating on non-stick skillets. By contrast, cast iron is completely happy with more durable metal spatulas.

Another perceived limitation of cast iron is having to hand wash them. This is true, cast iron cannot be run through the dishwasher. I was still washing my non-stick cookware by hand, though. I cleaning my cast iron skillet while they’re still warm after cooking with hot water and adding a very small drop of dish soap placed on a chainmail scrubber. In the absence of that kind of scrubber, I’ve used both coffee grounds and salt to scour skillets.

Once the skillet’s clean and dry, put a penny-size drop of oil into the pan, wipe it around for an even coating with a paper towel to keep the seasoning fresh, then put the skillet away. You’re done.

🔗 Tesla driver filmed ‘asleep’ at wheel in Los Angeles

From The Independent:

A video appearing to show a Tesla driver asleep while his vehicle drove on auto-pilot has prompted criticism online.

The footage, posted on Twitter by US journalist Clint Olivier and filmed by his wife Alisha, was filmed on Los Angeles‘ busy interstate 5 last Saturday morning.

As Mr Olivier drives past the car, which is travelling steadily along the middle lane, Ms Olivier can be heard saying: “He’s totally asleep. This is crazy.”

There’s a broader post to write about the specific nomenclature of Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving tech being named Autopilot, and how drivers interpret the word. Until I write it, it will have to suffice to say that this incident isn’t the first such incident and will not be the last.

The driver is lucky this wasn’t fatal.

A hoped-for 2019 Raleigh city council platform

Updated: June 24, 2019

Oct. of 2019 is going to bring around another biannual election for city council and mayor in Raleigh. There’s quite a bit of hot button issues:

  • Concern that Raleigh is quashing “innovative business models” by regulating electric scooters and restricting what manner of AirBnB rentals will be allowed
  • Zoning
  • Gentrification
  • Traffic

So, at the forefront of thinking for a few minutes, but really the result of lots of background thinking, here’s some of what I’d like 2019 city council candidates to get behind:

  • Affirm that scooters pay their way for using public infrastructure
    • Private businesses cannot appropriate public infrastructure
    • Sidewalk use for scooters, bikes, etc. are subject to permitting and usage fees
  • AirBnB pays hotel tax for short term whole house rentals
    • My complex proposal here is “if it quacks like a duck, treat it like a duck”
    • “But why do you love hotels over homeowners, Nathan?” Because when you treat your personal assets like a business, you get the responsibilities of acting like a business and hotels charge and pay through occupancy tax
  • Vacancy tax
    • Encourage folks sitting on vacant property and vacant lots to develop them
    • If property owners want to keep houses or office buildings or lots bare for years on end, put a surcharge on their property taxes
    • Offer property owners who have vacant property the opportunity to sell to the city at a fair-market rate. The fair market rate doesn’t budge, however, after the property tax surcharge kicks in.
  • Traffic prioritization: Pedestrians then bicycles then mass transit then cars
    • Raleigh is lousy for sidewalks outside of the downtown core. A whole lot more of the city could be walkable
    • Instead of expanding the number of traffic lanes on a given road, the city should first opt to add or expand multi-use paths for cycling, walking. Increase bus coverage and service frequency as well. Give buses protected stops and traffic priority.
  • Allow multi-family structures in residential zoning
    • The proverbial mother-in-law suite, yes, but also, allow two address/two front-door buildings anywhere they currently aren’t
  • City acquires and leases-back housing in East and Southeast Raleigh to local residents
    • Instead of watching what a lot of folks think is inevitable, that the predominantly black neighborhoods east and south of downtown are bought up by developers, residents evicted and redeveloped into suddenly much higher “market rate” housing, the city ought to acquire housing at-risk of gentrification, rent the houses back to their current occupants and help those occupants make improvements to the properties. Grant occupants equity
  • No public tax money for exclusive private benefit
    • The city should forswear using public money to be offered as tax incentive for private businesses. E.g. the city was part of a pitch team trying to land Amazon HQ2 and part of that was likely to have been significant breaks on property taxes and providing other incentives for Amazon to locate here. Meanwhile, every regular business and homeowner pays property taxes.
    • The city should focus on answering problems around affordable housing and transit ahead of contributing money, land or other in-kind consideration for new sports facilities
    • The city should definitely not publicly finance a new professional sports arena and let a private ownership group reap the rewards of operating the arena

I want Raleigh to grow inclusively. That a resident who needs the bus to get to work, child care and other errands and fun has robust access to the city. That not only do we not gentrify historically disadvantaged neighborhood residents, but we robustly protect them and help them. That we think about getting around the city more creatively than how fast we can get sport utility crossovers down Six Forks and Falls of Neuse.

Are these the best ideas? Probably not. I fully expect there are better expressions of them, and I’ll add them and source them as I find out about them.

🔗 Harry Leslie Smith, first time author at 87, dies

Katharine Q. Seelye writes in “Harry Leslie Smith, ‘World’s Oldest Rebel,’ Is Dead at 95” - The New York Times:

His son’s death finally tipped him over the edge to start writing his memoirs, at 87. His first was a book called “1923,” the year of his birth, published in 2010. Other books and essays spilled forth. An Englishman who lived part time in Canada, he wanted to shake the world into appreciating what had been won in World War II.

He went on to write four more books and was working on a sixth, about the refugee crisis, when he died on Wednesday at 95 in a hospital in Ontario.

Remarkable. I’d like to be that productive that late in life. Heck, I’d love to be that productive now.

🔗 Fun with parsers

In The Hardest Program I’ve Ever Written – journal.stuffwithstuff.com, Bob Nystrom writes:

The hardest program I’ve ever written, once you strip out the whitespace, is 3,835 lines long. That handful of code took me almost a year to write. Granted, that doesn’t take into account the code that didn’t make it. The commit history shows that I deleted 20,704 lines of code over that time. Every surviving line has about three fallen comrades.

If it took that much thrashing to get it right, you’d expect it to do something pretty deep right? Maybe a low-level hardware interface or some wicked graphics demo with tons of math and pumping early-90s-style techno? A likely-to-turn-evil machine learning AI Skynet thing?

Nope. It reads in a string and writes out a string. The only difference between the input and output strings is that it modifies some of the whitespace characters. I’m talking, of course, about an automated code formatter.

This is an interesting walkthrough. In particular, I like the extra detail on paths pursued and later abandoned in the face of new information, new optimizations, or, particular code paths raising the Halting Problem.

Another element I appreciate here is Nystrom not trivializing the amount of work that went into the project.