Norfolk Rusks

Back in the distant past in Britain, there was the Yorkshire Television company, who had a show called Farmhouse Kitchen. I went to university with two volumes of recipes from that show in books that were copyrighted in 1975. This is an adaptation of one of those recipes to be more Paleo-friendly.

Ingredients

Makes about 13 rounds

  • 10oz almond flour (might need a bit more if dough is very wet)
  • 0.5 tsp salt plus a “good pinch”
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2.5 oz butter
  • a beaten egg

Mix the dry ingredients, then rub in the butter until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture. Add the beaten egg and fork the dough around until it is one lump. Roll out the dough to about 10mm thick and cut into rounds. The dough will be sticky and resist rolling, I put some all-purpose flour on the work surface and that helped.

Put the rounds on parchment paper on a baking tray. Put the baking tray in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill the dough. Set the oven to 400F.

Bake the rounds for 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bottom.

These turn out as pleasant, buttery, slightly crumbly, savoury cookies. You could add herbs (rosemary, or Herbes de Provence) to add flavour. I was craving cookies and these are a gluten-free version.

Eclipse 2017

Using a tree as a pinhole camera, these were taken a bit before the eclipse and fifteen minutes before totality.

Traffic stopped, everyone was out and looking at the sky. Even though the sun was down to a tiny sliver, it was still almost full daylight. Then the light dimmed and it looked like dusk right after sunset. It wasn’t pitch dark but the lights at the gas station across the street suddenly looked a lot brighter.

We got a minute and a half of totality, then a line of sun was visible and we were back to almost full daylight.

Now, 12 August, 2017

Thinking about
Public speaking, I have stuff to say! Co-presented a talk at the company internal conference, ‘Free cookies and usability for all,’ and baked nine dozen cookies for it. I never want to smell cinnamon and brown sugar again. Solo speaker on a lightening talk, ‘Agile for better mental health,’ which is a subject I care a lot about. Both were well received.

Submitted two talks to Dev Up, a local tech conference in October. I’m terrified they will accept one, or both. This is the first time I have submitted talks to a conference. Two years ago I would never have done that.

Stimuli and input
Finished ‘Incognito, the secret lives of the brain,’ by David Eagleman, and I have lost all confidence in memory, vision, and decision-making. It’s a fascinating book, only the second one on Audible I’ve got through. The next book on Audible is Eric Barker’s ‘Barking up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong.’ Liking it a lot so far.

Still working through ‘Letters from a Stoic’ by Seneca, and ‘Difficult Conversations’ by Stone, Patton, and Heen. Both are good, and I’m taking my time.

Craft and unnecessary creating
Christmas knitting. That is all. And some sourdough scones. And a ridiculous amount of cookies for the ‘Free cookies and usability’ talk.

Exercise and health
I think it has been over a year since I have sparred with a non-black-belt at karate. I feel like I am fighting better, I’ve picked up a bunch of new moves and tweaked old ones to nail the technique.

Experimenting with a Paleo diet, with sad results: I’ve lost weight and I really miss cheese, dairy, and bread.

If you want to kill off a sugar craving, bake six batches of the same cinnamon sugar cookies and give them all away at a conference talk. By batch five, you will be craving salt, celery, veggies, and meat. And bacon. All the bacon!

Sourdough Scones

I’ve been tweaking a recipe for sourdough scones, and it feels sufficiently different from the original to put it here. I found this recipe on Sourdough Surprises, who credits Sourdough Diva (no longer online)

Before you can make these, you need to get enough sourdough starter to play with. You can do this first thing in the morning or overnight, but you’ll need to leave this stuff alone for at least 6 hours to do its thing.

Take a half cup of goo from your sourdough stash and put it in a big bowl with three cups of water. Add one cup of all purpose flour, and two cups of whole wheat pastry flour, mix well. You can use all the same kind of flour, I like the mix because the all-purpose seems to get processed faster than the wheat.

Replenish the stash with a half cup of all purpose flour and a half cup of water, stir well, and stick it back in the fridge.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of sourdough starter
  • 1 cup of bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of wheat pastry flour or Paleo flour
  • (Optional) 2tbsp of Trader Joe’s coffee flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of Penzey’s Cake Spice
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons of cold butter
  • 1/2 cup of currants
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts
  • Cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top

Heat the oven to 400f.

Mix the flours, salt, cream of tartar, baking soda, sugar, and cake spice in a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub it in to the mix until you have a breadcrumb texture. Mix in the currants and walnuts.

Add a cup of the sourdough starter and mix well with a fork. Add a second cup of starter, knead the dough in the bowl for a minute so it knows who’s boss. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 3/4in thick. Cut out rounds (do NOT twist the cutter, that seals the edges) and put them on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Brush the tops with milk (cow or almond, makes no difference) and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over them. Bake at 400f for 20 minutes.

You can substitute a lot of different things into this recipe. I have used dried cherries, diced orange peel, pumpkin seeds, raisins, cranberries, roasted hazelnuts, 1/4 cup of roasted cacao nibs (also from Trader Joe’s), dried blueberries, whatever you like.

Do not under any circumstances use more than 2tbsp of coffee flour, because it will drown out all the other flavours.

Now, 2 July, 2017

Thinking about
Still noodling on distraction and focus, also considering the system one and system two thinking that Arthur Doler laid out in a useful and informative Lunch and Learn at work.

Picked up a copy of Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work,” it seems to tie in well with what I’m thinking about now.

Stimuli and input
Seneca’s “Letters from a Stoic” is the main book I’m reading, adding in “Difficult Conversations” by Stone, Patton, and Heen for the QA book club at work. I made a list of all the books I’ve read because of the Farnam Street blog, there are ten titles so far. I used to live on Farnham Street, so the name gives me a little trouble.

Also need to learn some Angular.js and Protractor.js for testing it.

Craft and unnecessary creating
I’ve been a lifelong English scone baker, but I discovered a recipe for sourdough scones and I thinkĀ it is better than my original one. The scones come out lighter and fluffier, with more structural integrity. Experimenting with adding in coffee flour (made from the fruit of the coffee berry), and unusual flours (sprouted wheat, oat flour, cornmeal).

Exercise and health
My karate instructor has been working me back through the coloured-belt techniques (orange, purple, blue, and green for Tracy’s Karate). It’s surprising how vicious they are!

QA skills besides testing

Figure out who you are
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test is useful. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do you handle stress? Are you a pattern-noticing person? Are you a visual, tactile, textual, or auditory person? Try a DiSC test.

Figure out how you learn
QA is a career that requires continual learning. Find out what works for you (books, video classes, working through problems, pairing with someone who knows the skill you want to develop). Experiment with different learning methods. How did your favourite teacher work?

How do you transmit information
Others learn and process information in different ways to you. Find out the ways to simply and clearly convey ideas to groups of others. Teach something to a person that does not learn the same way as you do.

How to take notes that will be helpful to you later
You’re not going to remember everything. Use flashcards, coloured sticky notes, diagrams, doodles, sketchnotes, a notebook, Evernote, Google Drive, find some way of storing data to find it later. If you use a notebook, consider indexing it (add page numbers, make a spreadsheet of topics). In six months time, you will have lost the context you currently have on your project, so find a way to record that information and get it to the people who will need it.

How to talk to difficult people
People who have done customer service or tech support have developed skills for dealing with that one customer that is furious with everyone and taking it out on you. You learn how to steer people towards an answer, how to stay calm under pressure, how to think on your feet, and how to say no. These skills are invaluable.

How to be a good part of a team
Quality Advocates are part of two teams: their product team, and the team of Quality Advocates across offices. Other QAs have a wealth of knowledge and information and they are happy to share it with you.

How to ask questions
Sometimes we ask questions we know the answer to, in order to help someone else get to the same answer. A well placed “can you help me understand X?” can uncover a hole in someone’s thinking. You learn by teaching to others, and by getting someone else to teach you, you help them know the subject better. And you learn something too.

How to listen
Listen so you can reply and add to the conversation. Don’t listen for a break so you can say the bit you were thinking about while they were talking to you. Pay attention when people are speaking.

Sharpen your observational skills
Who just got a haircut? Who looks like they didn’t sleep well last night? Who looks happy, or sad, or angry? Play ‘find the typo’ with every email you get. Learn to see visual bugs in apps, use a sticky note as a straight edge to check if things line up.

Know when and how to argue
Always fight fair. No manipulation, no passive-aggressive behaviour. Speak clearly and with precision (say “four days this week” instead of “all the time”). Don’t talk over people.

Drive your own career
You are responsible for your own growth and learning. If you need help, ask for it. If you don’t take the advice of people trying to help you, that is your choice and the consequences of your choices are on you. If you see something you want to learn, go learn it, you don’t need permission.

Practice ‘recreational QA’
Find bugs in the wild, and try to figure out how you would test so that bug did not get past you. Proofread books as you read, look for typos and wrong grammar. Try and figure out what game designers were thinking when they made your favourite game.

Talk in front of groups
In Agile retrospectives, team stand-up meetings, and other meetings, you will need to address groups. Put the points you want to cover on an index card and use it as a prompt when you get nervous. Everyone is not staring at you, they will not throw rotten fruit. Take a prop with you to hold if it makes you feel better.

Find out what resets you from stressful situations
Try a short walk, a cup of tea, a quick stretching exercise, a few minutes of silence and meditation. You will be in situations that poke your sore spots, reacting emotionally will not make things better. Recognise your emotional state and take the steps you need to return to a calm center, without freezing off or bottling up your reactions.

Figure out your blind spots
If you’re a lifelong iPhone user, find out how to test Android phones, and vice-versa. Web app people can look into iPad apps, Windows people can get a Linux VM on their machine to explore. Ask people you work with to tell you what your weaker skills are, and listen to them.

Figure out what you’re trying to improve
You improve with deliberate practice on your weak spots in an environment where it is OK to make mistakes and not be perfect. If you only operate in your strengths, you don’t improve over time. Keep your focus on the skill you want to improve and act in ways that will force that growth. Then focus on another area to improve.
From Anna Z: Always know what your short term and long term professional goals are, use SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound).

Now, 22 April 2017

Thinking about
Distraction. I turned off all the notifications on my phone except texts, it feels like I have less pressure to poke at my phone at all times.

Also thinking a lot about how you lead a team across multiple cities, especially ones you can’t just drive to. How do you maintain a relationship with people over WebEx sessions, phone calls, Slack and email?

Stimuli and input
Listened to the Audible version of Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic and I’m going to be reading it with a colleague at work. Finished Thanks for the Feedback and it was good. Annoyingly, “why didn’t I think of that” good.

Craft and unnecessary creating
I want to finish spinning some sea green Polwarth silk fibre into yarn and spin something else. I’m knitting asymmetric triangle/curve scarves and liking the look of the finished piece but still unsure how to wear them without looking awkward.

Drawing and doodling has fallen to the wayside, I want to figure out how to bring that back. I have some visual learners at work who need to see a picture or a diagram before something will click.

Exercise and health
As an experiment, I signed up with YogaGlo so I would have some exercise to do while on a business trip, and I’m keeping the subscription. A half-hour of yoga first thing in the morning seems like a good habit to have in my life.