Monday, 2 November 2009

My Bread (Year 2)

Over the weekend, I tried out a new bread book – My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method, by Jim Lahey.

Lahey’s basic recipe is very similar to the basic Artisan Bread 5 Minutes a Day recipe in I’ve been working with for a year now.

The biggest difference is the cooking method – in a pre-heated covered dish at a slightly higher temp vs. placing a small dish of water in the oven and cooking at a slightly lower temp.

Same ‘baking with steam’ concept, without the loaf shaping.

The result is a gorgeous loaf with a fantastically crunchy crust and a slightly less custardy interior.

My Bread

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


Some quick reviews of the handful of books I savored during my recent trip in Mexico.

The End of Prosperity: How Higher Taxes Will Doom the Economy–If We Let It Happen

I found this month’s Economics book club selection (my first Kindle purchase) an extra-ordinarily frustrating read mainly due to the Fox News-esque partisanship. Despite that, the sections on the incentives and implications of the Laffer Curve, Flat tax, Fair tax were thought-provoking and highly recommended.

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

The most inspiring cook book I’ve ever read – all about improvising in the kitchen and embracing the microorganisms around you. The recipes for Persimmon Cider Mead and fruit Kimchi sound pretty delicious.

Belgian Ale

Great book (like all the books in the Classic Beer Style Series) on the history and definition of Belgian ale. The key – don’t be afraid to use 20+% sugar and focus on flavor rather than strict tradition.

Brew Like a Monk: Trappist, Abbey, and Strong Belgian Ales and How to Brew Them

A deep dive into the history, brewing process, and recipes for some of my favorite Belgian beers – Afflighem Blond, Westmalle Trippel – and some of the American beers brewed in the same style. Stan Hieronymus makes a pretty good argument that it’s the Americans that are moving the style forward.

194X: Architecture, Planning, and Consumer Culture on the American Home Front (Architecture, Landscape and Amer Culture)

Fifty years ago, the Great Depression and WWII destroyed the careers of American architects – they switched from building to planning. Planning the new American cities, planning suburbia, planning for the war to be over and their careers to return.

Coffee Cupper’s Handbook

THE vocabulary book on describing coffee’s taste. The biggest ‘a-ha’ for me: cooling removes the sweet and bitter aspects of coffee – but has no impact on the sour tastes. Big thanks to Sam Buchanan for loaning me his copy.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Daily Bread: 12 Aug 2008

The boy and I have been making bread (almost) every morning for the past few weeks. I find it a relaxing way to start the morning as he picks at breakfast. The loaf in the photo above, I made this morning.

The simplicity of bread-making is compelling. 4 ingredients: flour, water, yeast, salt.

Separate they don’t taste like much (still, each time we make dough, the boy tastes a licked-finger full of each ingredient).

You’ve probably got those 4 items lying around your kitchen. I did.

No HFCS, no extra flavors. Still, this very simple (and forgiving) recipe makes the best bread I’ve had in a decade. Easy.

Custard-y interior with a hard, crusty exterior.

Perfect for a creamy cheese or a thick swath of Nutella.

And I’ve yet to hit reach 5 min/day, it usually takes fewer.

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Monday, 24 July 2006

Growing a Business – Today, 20 Years Later

I completely disconnected from phone, computer, internet, for a day and a half this weekend. Much of that time was spent reading Paul Hawken’s ‘Growing a Business’.

On my way through the book, I had to keep checking and double checking the publication date (1987). Growing a Business reads like Cluetrain Manifesto (2001) – commerce is better when it’s done at a personal level, etc.

Tuesday, 15 February 2005

Better Email Tips

On MPR the other morning, they had consultant and author Marilyn Paul talking about ways to spend less time in your inbox.

Her suggestion is to institute email subject line tags. You include these tags in your email subject line. Here are the one’s I remember:

  • ty: thank you
  • nrn: no reply necessary
  • nbd: need response by date

More tips on increasing your effectiveness available in her book: It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys.

Thursday, 25 November 2004

More Slack Keeps Projects on Track

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.
There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of ’emergency’ is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Swap in “project” for “emergency” and Eisenhower’s statement is equally as true. Yes, projects are as unexpected as emergencies. If all the variable of a project were known ahead of time – processes, timeframes, resources – the project would already be complete. Projects are in fact the process for answering these questions.

When I was working for a WiFi startup a couple years back, my product manager spent a good chunk of his days in Microsoft Project. Every day, he would tweak the Gantt charts to reflect the current state of the project, and print out the revised plan.

Then as the plan came off the printer, some new information would arrive making the new plan obsolete.

Lately, I’ve been involved in a number of enterprise software projects all at the early planning stages. Project 1 is starting with a Gantt chart. Like all Gantt charts, it depicts a tiered, linear, hand-off process. This is inherently ineffective.

A more effective, collaborative, and true-to-life model is a weave [WorkingPathways_ProjectWeave.pdf]. The pdf illustrates the weave model I helped a design agency work towards.

Another effective planning model comes from Frank Patrick and has traction in the Agile Software development community: the Hurricane model for predicting uncertain futures. The crux – we know where the project is now and some notion of time it takes to get in any direction, but we don’t know exactly where the project will be at that time. That’s the classic quantum mechanics trade-off: you can measure velocity or precision. Not both.

The most effectively run projects I’ve observed are based 2 principles;

  • Slack:Project schedules should have 2 forms of slack built in – 1 day per week and 1 week per month. Only schedule work for 80% of the available time. That’ll keep the schedule flexible enough to adjust for all the unknowns you’ll discover along the way.
    Read more on slack in the excellent book Slack : Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency
  • Keep a loose association between work and resources:
    Define the pile of work and define the members of the team. Don’t define it in any more detail than that.

I think Steve Pavlina sums it up nicely:

“No plan survives contact with the real world.”