The Broken Earth Trilogy

I've just finished "The Stone Sky," and with that, J.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth series. Damn, what a trio of books. I haven't been this engrossed in novels in a long time. I'm behind the curve in reading and figure that almost anybody reading this post has already them. If you haven't, don't worry, no major spoilers here. There are spoilers in the blog posts that I link below, however.

I predict that I'll be coming back to this series in time, like I have with Le Guin's Earthsea books. Essun is, I think, right there with Ged as the most complete and most human wizard in all of fantasy literature. And her family, allies, and enemies are also portrayed with great care. The descriptions of the landscapes and cityscapes, both living and dead, warrant another read, for sure.

I shouldn't compare Jemisin to Le Guin, but I always (guiltily) wanted more action in Le Guin's stories, and I found myself instantly hooked by the punctuations of danger, force, and urgency in the Broken Earth series. It's a thrilling tale that lives up to all the hype.

Next up on my reading list: "The Trail Runner's Companion" and "The Architecture of Open Source Applications." I'm going to cherry pick some chapters from the latter. I'm mostly interested in lessons from Berkeley DB, HDFS, and LLVM.

Bobcat Ridge 2

Inertia struck me and my family and we didn't make the drive to Denver for the Women's March. Instead, I spent my afternoon at Bobcat Ridge Natural Area trying to squeeze in a long run before tonight's storm. I ran up the Ginny Trail and down on and back on the D.R. and Valley Loop trails, 17 kilometers in all, and 550 meters of elevation gain. The view from the top of Green Ridge is great. The only defect is that Longs peak is hidden by other, nearer mountains.

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Palisade Mountain in the center, flanked by Sheep Mountain on the left and Crosier Mountain on the right. Longs Peak is behind Palisade Mountain.

The Ginny trail is named after Ethel Virginia Pulliam and the D.R. trail after her husband, David Rice Pulliam. The couple were the owners of the ranch that became Bobcat Ridge Natural Area.

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Mahoney Park

Mahoney Park is a small, flat, grassy basin dotted with rounded granite knobs, like a Vedauwoo or Joshua Tree in miniature. The trail builders made sure that it winds among the rock in an amusing way. Beyond Mahoney Park, the D.R. trail is nicely wooded and covered with pine needles, a very pleasurable place to run.

I sure do feel fortunate to live in a city that has the foresight and funds to buy and preserve such unique open space.

Reading glasses

I bought my first pair of glasses with non-zero optical power last week: 1.0 dioptre reading glasses. These Twist readers are cheap ($20) and fold flat, which is a pretty cool feature. I chose yellow-green frames to help protect them from getting accidentally crushed.

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I had to remind myself what a dioptre is: it's the reciprocal of the optical length (in meters) of a lens, m-1. This unit of measurement is the work of Ferdinand Monoyer, a French ophthalmologist. A Google doodle on May 9, 2017 commemorated Dr. Monoyer's work on his birthday.

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Quack, quack, quack

I ate duck often when living in France and have been missing it this winter. Farm-raised ducks are not easy to find in Colorado. I've never seen duck at King Soopers. Whole Foods has whole frozen ducks occasionally. Some local CSAs advertise duck eggs, but not meat. In Montpellier, fresh never-frozen duck was not cheap, but it was almost always available.

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The green sausage is chicken, duck, and spinach. To the right: cuisses de canard (duck legs) and magret de canard (duck breast).

I never bought a whole duck, but bought a pair of duck legs or duck breasts, or some links of chicken, duck, and spinach sausage from a vendor at the Arceaux market almost every other Tuesday. She sold chicken, too, both raw and roasted in the rotisserie at the back of her stand. Her only non-poultry product was polenta, which is delicious fried in duck fat.

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Magret de canard and foie gras

Duck breast is my favorite red meat and Florence Fabricant describes my favorite way to cook it in this recipe. Seared and then roasted gently in the oven until medium rare, if I had to choose a last meal, this would be it. The sweet and sour five-spice marinade and glaze is nice, but salt and pepper is really all a flavorful duck needs.

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Magret de canard with homemade kimchi

Because I mostly worked from the house we rented in Montpellier, I could execute slow cooking recipes while pushing pixels on my computer. Duck legs confit, simmered for hours in their own fat and juices, are easy to do in parallel with other tasks and are extremely delicious.

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Cuisses de canard that have spent a couple days wrapped up with spices

Confit is the past participle of the French verb confire, "to preserve." Before refrigeration, this was one of our options for preserving meat. Pork or duck, covered in steralized fat which keeps oxygen and microbes at bay, can keep stable and healthy for weeks. I never managed to keep any for longer than a day or two.

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Lentilles vertes du Puy are my favorite side for cuisse de canard

I enjoy foie gras and have a picture of it above, but I don't know enough to write about it. Ruth and I developed a preference for foie gras mi-cuit (half-cooked), which is a gently cooked piece of a single whole liver, not reformed or "en bloc." I don't definitely know which are the best producers, but had a good experience buying vacuum packed mi-cuit foie gras from a couple of vendors at the Arceaux market.

I'm going to keep searching for local producers of duck and with a little luck might be able to return to these recipes in the fall.

Running at Bobcat Ridge

I ran at the city's Bobcat Ridge Natural Area for the first time this week and loved it. It's a little too far from my home office for a lunchtime run, and because my dog is not allowed at all I always pick other destinations for a weekend outing with my family. I found myself in the neighborhood and jumped at the chance to check it out.

The City of Fort Collins bought 2600 acres (1050 hectares) of land west of Masonville in 2003 and opened it to the public in 2006. It's at the very edge of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, where long linear hogbacks of the oldest local sandstone (from the Permian period) frame the uplifted granite bedrock.

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Parking at the Buffum Canyon entrance

The trail that loops around the small valley the settlers called West Glade is 4.5 miles (7.5 kilometers) long. The best stretches roll through Ponderosa pines and over the granite toes of the Rockies on the west side of the valley.

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Looking east across West Glade to Milner Mountain from the foot of Green Ridge

I'm definitely going to get back to Bobcat Ridge this season if the dry and mild weather continues. There are many more trails, and a hanging valley, to explore higher up on Green Ridge. I was only there for 45 minutes, but could easily spend half a day or more on the park's singletrack trails.

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Valley Loop trail, looking south

Tanuary

January is our brownest month of the year, if only because it's 2-3 days longer than February.

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I'm headed out for my first long trail run of the season in a few minutes. Yesterday I went for a short and easy run my dog and felt smooth and economical for the first time this year. I'm hoping to feel this again today.

I, Chaiwala

A cup of coffee or tea in the afternoon is one of the best things in life. I appreciate not only the warmth, the flavor, and the caffeine, but also the break from computering while I prepare my cup and the afternoon light in our kitchen, which is on the opposite side of the house from my office. I enjoy drinking chai and have been having a lot of fun making it at home this winter. Ruth enjoys it, too, and my kids love the smell of the spices. Now that I've got the routine down, it doesn't take much longer to brew a pot from scratch than it does to steep a couple bags of Celestial Seasonings.

I keep a constant supply of ginger root in the refrigerator now, as well as a stash of cinnamon sticks, green cardamom pods, cloves, and black peppercorns – all from the bulk spice corner of the Fort Collins Food Co-op – separate from our other kitchen spices. I don't bother to peel the ginger root anymore, and 2 ounces, thinly sliced, goes in a pot with 6 cups of water. While it comes to a boil, I pound 2 cinnamon sticks, about 8 cloves, 8 cardamom pods, and a tablespoon or more of peppercorns in a mortar. Not to a powder, but to pieces small enough to infuse quickly and large enough to strain easily. I simmer the spices for 10 minutes, turn off the heat and add loose tea in an infuser or tea bags if I've run out of loose tea. After 4-5 minutes, I remove the tea leaves or bags, and add 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 cups of milk.

I usually have a mug as soon as I've warmed it back to a simmer and will let the milky chai remain in the pot with the spices to intensify the flavor. This recipe uses less milk and more tea than others I've found on the web.

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An early batch. I'm using more ginger and much more black pepper lately.

Every time I add another peppercorn to the brew, I like it more. There must be a limit, but I haven't hit it yet.

It's not a blog without RSS

I'm committed to reading the longer pieces that my friends and colleagues write on the web, when they do, but have been finding that a surprising number of their sites don't have an Atom or RSS feed that I can use with Feedly. I've used Ctrl-U to view source on the sites and it's not just Feedly being dense, there aren't any feeds exposed. Do modern "blog" frameworks no longer have feeds, or no longer link them in the HTML? I know this marks me as someone who came of age in the twentieth century, but I don't think it's a blog if there's no RSS.

Are you a reader that blogs? Will you check that your blog's RSS is turned on and then will you ping me (Twitter or email) to let me know I can subscribe? I will!

The "Meltdown" and "Spectre" security flaws

I'm finding the proof of concept attacks on memory cached as a result of speculative execution of code branches fascinating and instructional. First of all, I haven't been paying much attention to how processors work, and find it amazing that it's normal to evaluate the else blocks in our code even before the if blocks have evaluated to True or False. I'm learning a lot about computers from articles like this one in Ars Technica and the Meltdown Paper. The latter gets over my head quickly, but is written clearly enough that I'm getting quite a bit out of it.

It's disconcerting to know that your programs in the cloud have had access to private data in mine via side channels like these. And mine access to yours.

First run of 2018

My first run of the year was an easy 30 minutes up the Spring Creek Trail and back. The snow that fell before dawn on New Year's Eve has been cleared from the trail, but because of unusually calm conditions, lingers on the branches of trees and bushes and along fences. Our low temperature this morning was -15° C, a prime temperature for the growth of plate and dendrite ice crystals. Temperatures warmer and colder than this favor the formation of columns and needles.

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I got down to less than 2 hours running per week in December, which is maybe too low, but since the weather was so mild I was on my bike a lot more than usual. My base feels okay, and I'm planning to run 3 hours next week and work my way up to 6 by the end of April.