QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded

Post Filter


So I started working on a method to compose posts better, for my idea of better at least. Version one of qzpostfilt (and a README and some test code) is available in the git repo and browsable here.

It's a mis-mash of Markdown and nroff/troff style commands. I picked what I thought the easiest to remember and to type on a phone keyboard methods of composing my posts would be. Basically you have markdown style inline formatting for bold, italic, code and *roff style formatting for more block level stuff. As a general rule: .foo creates <foo> and you need to explicitly close your ./foo.

my xterm composing this post

It ends up looking more like *roff than markdown.

I see this as the first step towards a composing tool. I'll also need a CGI wrapper for phone use and a command line wrapper to help with tags. As of today, it's more of a :% !qzpostfilt in vi sort of thing.

Also in blosxom blog news, I've changed the html flavor templates slightly and made changes to the CSS file mostly to better support reading on small screens, but also for a <ul> class to use in recipe posts.

Lastly, I added another two dozen logos to the mix. Previously there had been 146, so it's up to 170 now. I don't recall how I created the first logos, this time my method was to type "QZ" in libreoffice, change the font size to 180, and then go through the fonts I have installed, screenshotting all the interesting ones. I next very roughly cropped the images so that each QZ was alone on a white background. From there I started scripting the work.

# for every png file, convert to ppm (RGB color), auto-crop a white border,
# convert to pgm (grayscale), rescale so ysize (height) is 100 pixels,
# convert to png making white (and only exactly white) transparent, saving
# that result in the "new" directory
for f in *png ; do pngtoppm $f | pnmcrop -white | ppmtopgm | 
   pnmscale -ysize 100 | pnmtopng -transparent =white > new/$f ; done

(That's something I need to add to qzpostfilt: a <pre> handler. Todo. Hand fix for now.)

A second, messier, pass with identify got me the files renamed to look like "linux-biolinum-keys-h100-w205.png" instead of "linux-biolinum-keys.png". My randomlogo plugin uses the height and width information when available.

Spicy dal


A simple to make, if slow, simple dish. I eat it as a hot side dish, add something for crunch to make a hot soup, or cold as a cracker dip. Today's lunch was the hot soup version with some (packaged, store bought) fried onion for crunch. I adapted this from an old Madhur Jaffrey cookbook. There she basically says "Here's the how, adapt the spices to your taste." I'm going to pass that recommendation on to you.

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1" to 2" ginger

In a suitably sized sauce pan, start heating the water on full heat. While that's happening, give the lentils a good rinse to wash the dust off, it helps reduce the froth, then add to the heating water. Peel the ginger and cut into three or four good size hunks and toss those in the pan, too.

When it starts to boil, skim off the foam on the surface. Add

  • 1 teaspoon tumeric powder

Give it a good stir to mix in the tumeric, lower the heat to a simmer, put a lid mostly on, but leave a crack for some steam to escape. Then let that go for an hour to ninety minutes. If the heat is too high and the water has boiled off, add some more hot water to make it soupy. (And adjust the heat.) You can pretty much ignore it during this stage.

After hour to ninety minutes you can fish out and discard the ginger. Get a small fry pan heating.

  • a teaspoon or so of oil
  • a teaspoon of whole cumin
  • a teaspoon or two of crushed red pepper
  • a pinch of asafoetida powder (aka "hing")

Add the oil, let it heat a bit, then add the cumin, wait a few seconds and add the red pepper and asafoetida. Stir it in the pan a bit to get all the spices covered in oil and lightly toasted. The asafoetida may smell a lot, it really needs just five or ten seconds in the oil. The others thirty to sixty seconds. Then add the hot oil and spices to the lentils. Maybe add

  • a teaspoon or so corriander powder
  • a teaspoon or so salt

to the lentils as well. Stir to mix the spices in, turn off heat.

As a side, it's done now. As a soup I feel it needs something more. I've used crumpled crackers, broken chakli, crunchy fried onions, chopped cashews, etc.

Left over cold I use it as dip/spread for crackers. Or it can be reheated to be a sidedish / soup again. Easily made a day or two in advance.

It's boring and simple looking, so no photo.

Covid-19, Day 79


San Francisco went into "shelter in place" rules yesterday. Walking the dogs, I've seen the streets eerily quiet. Restaurants are open for take out only. The bars are all shuttered. Many businesses are closed or reduced hours. Hardly anyone is walking or driving anywhere. To judge by this Reuters photo collection, it's not just San Francisco but world wide.

Yesterday there were anouncements that taxes will be postponed and there's talk of a $1000 check for every taxpayer in the US. Details are still thin, but:

March 18 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 index tumbled 7% on Wednesday, triggering a 15-minute trading halt of Wall Street’s main indexes for the second time this week, on fears that stimulus measures may not be enough to avert a coronavirus-driven recession.
(From Reuters today.) Here's the "trading curbs" (aka "circuit breakers") that have happened recently:

datewhat happened
March 9, 2020Dow fell 7.8%
March 12, 2020Dow fell 10%
March 16, 2020Dow fell 12.9%
March 18, 2020Dow down 8.3% so far today

That's 34% down from the high of 29,551 on February 12th.

It was days ago that I went shopping, but it was crazy then. In these fast moving times, what's true one day might not be true the next. Still, last Saturday I went to seven stores of various types. Normally I shop on Sunday, but I wanted to get it over with sooner. In order:

1 Pet Food Express: no crowds, no noticible shortages (even in the cleaning supplies). I got pet food.

2 Discount Builder's Supply: they are rationing masks, and short on some cleaning supplies. I got some wood (for baseboard) and weatherstipping. I looked at doormats but did not get one.

3 Bed Bath and Beyond: Terrible, terrible line. I went in wanting a new doormat, I left without even looking at their stock. I did not see much of the shelves. This is a store that manages to make four customers waiting for three registers seem to take forever. When the line snakes to the back of the store, yikes.

4 Trader Joe's: Crowded and empty, empty shelves. Basically no meat, frozen food, canned food, or jarred food. I wanted hot dogs, tomato sauce, and nuts from there. I got nuts. Line was short. They had someone going around and sani-wiping the counters by the cash registers after every customer.

empty shelves at TJ's

I was far from the only person snapping pictures of empty shelves here. As I took this, a worker said it had been full on Monday.

5 Rainbow Coop: This is were I usually do the bulk of my grocery shopping. It is a vegetarian store, so I need to go elsewhere for meats. Otherwise it usually has a good selection of the stuff I need. I couldn't get some stuff because the bulk foods were closed.

papered over bulk bins

And then the non-bulk versions had sold out. Mostly not empty shelves, the canned beans were mostly gone, and (eg) no basmati rice (normally I buy from bulk); there was specialty stuff like paella rice. The bread section however was a blank slate.

empty bread shelves

My guess is they were not getting bread deliveries. The lines were insanely bad. I've never, even in Thanksgiving peak, seen lines longer than about three or four people there.

in a line to the back of the store

All of the staff, and many of the customers, at Rainbow were wearing disposable gloves. One staff member and a few of the customers had face masks.

6 Smart Food Service: I usually hit this up about once every 4 to 6 weeks. It's open to the public but aimed at supplying restaurants. It's my Costco substitute these days. They had hot dogs, but not a brand I knew and only in 48(?) packs. I got a pineapple and a big can of peaches in syrup. A 3kg can, I'd have gotten jarred ones from TJ's or Rainbow if they were available there. I used to buy them from Costco, where they came as a four pack of jars probably totalling 3kg, but I've let my membership lapse. Very few empty shelves, but the parking lot was full, something I'd never seen before. On the other hand, the line was shorter than usual.

7 Molly Stone's: this is my normal walk-to grocery, but it's expensive, so I don't get much stuff there. The soup section was pretty thin, and some veggies and cleaing supplies were out. No bakery bread there either, but they had some plastic bagged bread. I also got hot dogs (two $9 packs, Niman Ranch) and a whole chicken (organic free range, $24). I ended up spending about $98 there, possibly a record for a day I'm not buying booze. They do have a nice liquor aisle. I have seen people rack up over $1000 purchases in that store, with most of that spend alcoholic.

I didn't take pictures of the stores that were normal or near normal. Now I'm regretting that.

Black pepper tofu, after Ottolenghi


I find the peppery sauce in this addictive. It's simplified (a bit) and moderated from the original in Ottolenghi's book Plenty. His recipes are good, but complicated.

tofu prepared, next to cookbook photo
  • 1 1/2 lb firm tofu
  • cornstarch to coat tofu
  • enough vegetable oil to fry the tofu

Cube drained extra firm tofu, roll in corn starch. Then fry in shallow oil in batches, turning frequently, until golden on all sides. Drain on paper towel.

  • 1/4 lb butter
  • 12 small shallots (figure an ounce each), peeled and thinly sliced
  • some chilli peppers, thinly sliced, quantity and strength to taste, I suggest two jalapeños
  • 1/2 head of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 inches of ginger root chopped

With tofu aside, reuse same pan to cook shallots, chillies, garlic, and ginger at low heat in the butter. Stir occasionally and when soft, 10 to 15 minutes, add

  • 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 4 tablespoons regular soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Stir those in then add

  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns freshly coarse ground

Ottolenghi calls for more soy sauce and pepper. I like his pepper quantity but it is too much for my wife. Stir again and add that tofu put aside earlier. Stir to coat on all sides as long as needed to warm the tofu back up. Finally garnish with

  • handful small, thin spring onions, cut into short matchsticks