Recipe Blogs

I was reading recipe blogs this afternoon looking for suggestions on how to make a honey and orange vinaigrette. The typical ingredient lists were sufficiently consistent (orange juice, cider vinegar, honey, olive oil, a little mustard as an emulsifier) that I felt able to improvise, but in doing so I was reminded of Mallory Ortberg’s classic article, All The Comments on Every Recipe Blog:

“I didn’t have any eggs, so I replaced them with a banana-chia-flaxseed pulse. It turned out terrible; this recipe is terrible.”

“I followed this to the letter, except I substituted walnuts and tofu for the skirt steak, ditched the cheese entirely, and replaced the starch with a turnip salad. Turned out great. My seven-year-old boys have never seen a dessert and I’ve convinced them that walnut-and-turnip salad is “cake.” Thanks for the recipe!”

“I didn’t have buttermilk, so I just poured baking soda into a container of raspberry yogurt. It tasted terrible.”

“I love this recipe! I added garlic powder, Italian seasoning, a few flakes of nutritional yeast, half a bottle of kombucha, za’atar, dried onion, and biscuit mix to mine. Great idea!”

She’s not wrong.

Devil Mountain

This weekend Abi and I abandoned the kids again and headed off for a short break. We stayed at the Van der Valk Hotel Cuijk and had a wonderfully relaxing time. I’m always impressed by how Van der Valk have industrialized their particular brand of hospitality. They do it so well.

Yesterday we wandered the outskirts of Cuijk in the afternoon, and then again in the dark after dinner. (We shared a smoked duck carpaccio and cranberry salad as a starter, and that’s a dish I’ll definitely be stealing for my own repertoire.) Today we drove through Molenhoek and the Mookerheide to the Duivelsberg (Devil Mountain) just outside the village of Beek on the German border. (It’s only 75.9m above sea level, but that’s quite a hill around these parts.)

We followed the 3km Duivelsberg trail before lunch, which took us past the hill’s summit. In medieval times it was the site of a medieval motte-and-bailey castle. In the Second World War the hill was fought over during Operation Market Garden. Now, it’s a pleasant forest stroll.

The Duivelsberg trail is a loop. We started out from the car park of the Duivelsberg restaurant. On the inbound leg, on some of the red markers for our trail, we started to see these plaques:

To me, it looked like a dude with flippers for hands. Abi wondered if it might be an oddly winged devil, or the Angel of Mosquitoes. Because this wasn’t our first rodeo visit to the Dutch countryside, we automatically thought that the signs were going to lead us to an inscrutable piece of public art. We also speculated that they might be symbolic of the Duivelsberg restaurant. A tall guy with serving trays for hands?

Indeed, the trail led us right back there. The last plaque had an arrow that seemed to point straight into the restaurant’s back garden, but the symbol was nowhere to be found on the building or its menus. Curious. We sat down for lunch and speculated. We tried a reverse image search, but it didn’t produce anything. The other thing that kept our interest piqued was the fact that the plaques were directional. They only appeared on one side of the trail markers. They were trying to lead you one way, rather than in a loop like the other walking trails.

After lunch, we decided to follow the signs a bit further, to see if they led anywhere. We followed them for maybe a couple of kilometers: along the Grensroute trail at first, then over the Oude Kleefsebaan at the car park on the road, and into yet more muddy forests. It was a lovely walk, along some beautiful tree-lined and root-paved avenues, but we weren’t getting the feeling there was an actual destination awaiting us. Eventually, it started to hail, and then to rain. We sheltered at the top of a hill, and then turned around. We figured that we’d decipher the mystery once we were warm and dry again, with access to more internet.


When we got back to the restaurant, the obvious thing to do was to stop and asked one of the staff if he knew what the plaques were for. He did. They’re markers for the Walk of Wisdom, a 136km walking trail that loops around Nijmegen and surroundings. It opened in June of 2015, so it’s brand new. The people behind it are trying to establish a new kind of secular pilgrimage tradition, with its own rituals and symbols. Pilgrims doing the whole route can buy a Walk of Wisdom badge (Sinister Paddle Man/Angel of Mosquitoes) to pin to their lapel or bag. They can also get a special leather thong, and buy commemorative bird rings in every village or town along the way to attach to it. Pilgrims are encouraged to take part in a “modern fast” by keeping their phones and devices turned off for as much as possible. The organisers hope that once the tradition gets bedded in, they can expand it to other locations around the world.

I’m a fan of big walks, but I’m not sure how I feel about this. Traditions generally rub me the wrong way, and this attempt to kick-start a bunch of new ones feels artificial. I hope people taking part enjoy the experience, but this afternoon I would have preferred a statue.

Walk to Nieuw Vennep, Sunday 13 March 2016

When I was working in Schiphol-Rijk a few years ago, I would occasionally cross the Aalsmeerderbrug to Aalsmeer to fill up at a conveniently located petrol station. More recently I’ve been shuttling Alex to appointments in Amstelveen, which has had us crossing the same waterway on the A9 a few kilometers further north. The route along the dyke always looked quite attractive, and I put it on my long-walk list. Last weekend the weather was gorgeous — cold, but sunny and clear — and I got up early on the Sunday to give it a go.

I didn’t want to spend the first few hours just walking to the start of my walk, so I took the first bus from Oostzaan to Amsterdam Centraal (08:30), and then a tram to the Olympic Stadium. From there I followed the path around the north shore of the Nieuwe Meer. I crossed the water on the Oude Haagseweg and continued on the Nieuwemeerdijk. That took me as far south as the A9, and to the north-western corner of Schiphol. The road wandered through the Sunday-deserted office and light industrial parks of Schiphol. Past the N231 the dyke became the Schipholdijk, and I could walk alongside the water again. A couple of kilometers later the road became the Aalsmeerderdijk, and later the Leimuiderdijk. I walked past the Westeinderplassen as far as the Leimuiderbrug, at which point I got bored.

I had intended to keep going to Sassenheim and take the train back, but there were other things I wanted to do that afternoon. So I turned back to Burgerveen, and cut along the Venneperweg to Nieuw Vennep and caught the train there. (Nieuw Vennep -> HoofdDorp -> Zaandam -> Oostzaan) Total walking distance about 25km.

It was a nice walk, and some parts of the dyke are lovely, but it wasn’t as idyllic and charming as I’d pictured. It was also about five hours straight into the sun, and I hadn’t even considered bringing sun block. Bad move. I got a serious burn on my face, and most of the last week it has either been painful or flaking off. Note to self: do better.

Statue of a dude taking a piss in the canal. With working water spray. Dutch public art: don’t ever go changing.
Just off the Anton Schleperspad on the west side of the Nieuwe Meer. Dutch public art, don’t ever etc.
Standing under the A9, looking north
Verhoef Aluiminium Boten. Drop-tested? Also miniature aluminium Eiffel Tower.
Fort bij Aalsmeer
Aalsmeerderdijk, Rijsenhout
Looking south to the Westeinderplassen

Lumia update

When Microsoft released the Lumia 950 and 950 XML phones in November last year, they got Windows 10 immediately. Microsoft said that other Lumia models would get the update from 8.1 to 10 “soon”, and it is finally here. I installed it on Friday. First impressions:

  • Transparent tiles on the home screen! I’m disproportionately excited about this.
  • There’s a setting to wake up the phone by double-tapping the screen! My old Nokia N9 used to have this, too! Again, excited.
  • Word recognition in the swipe keyboard has gone to crap.

I’m sure there’s more, I just haven’t noticed it yet. Bear in mind that I have a very superficial relationship with my phone.

My Mac (using OSX El Capitan) still doesn’t recognize the phone in Image Capture. The Camera Upload feature in the Dropbox app for Windows Phone still doesn’t support uploading video. The Nokia Photo Transfer app is annoying. Rather than trying to force the Lumia into my old workflow for gathering photos, I’ve given up and am using Microsoft’s preferred option: OneDrive. When I take a picture on the Lumia, it gets uploaded to my Camera Roll in OneDrive. I’ve installed the OneDrive app on my Mac, and it automatically syncs the remote changes to my local hard disk.

However, it appears that only the high-res version of a photo is uploaded to OneDrive, not the zoomed-in version (if I used the zoom). And it looks like living images are being saved in a different format now, in a single file with a _LI.jpg suffix? I need to do some digging to figure it all out…

How many syllables in “squirrel”?

I was browsing around yesterday to see if there are any new comic books that I need to look out for. (For values of “need.”) I’m most excited about volume 1 of Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones’s Howard The Duck, but that’s not out until May. Volume 2 of Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is out already, though. With the subtitle, “Squirrel You Know It’s True”

Huh, I thought. “Squirrel You Know It’s True” sounds like a play on Milli Vanilli’s 1989 hit “Girl You Know It’s True”. It’s pretty close, but it would be better if “squirrel” sounded more like…OH WAIT.

I pronounce “squirrel” with two syllables, but some people pronounce it with only one, to rhyme with “pearl” or “twirl”1, and if you do that then it’s a perfect piece of wordplay. In fact, the name “Squirrel Girl” becomes a rhyme in itself! And the subtitle of volume 1, “Squirrel Power” makes much more sense now too! I’m going to have to go re-read it to see what else I missed.

Lucky 10,000

1 Of course, in some Scottish accents the words “pearl” and “twirl” don’t rhyme with each other, and are pronounced with two syllables. And sometimes the word “girl” is pronounced as “gurrull”. (Epenthesis.) Actually, that makes “squirrel gurrull” rhyme again. Huh.

Short leet

The first and possibly only time I heard the term short leet in real life was in 1995 when I was applying for teaching jobs in and around Edinburgh. At one point, I was informed that I had been placed on the short leet for a position. To which my response was, “the short what?”

Betty Kirkpatrick writes in the Caledonian Mercury about useful Scots words and phrases:

A short leet is used to describe a list of selected candidates for a job or an office which has been compiled from a longer list. Thus, the list of candidates most likely to get the job is a short leet. This is a good place for job-hunters to be unless all the other names on the list belong to relatives of board members.

Leet was first recorded in Scots in the sixteenth century In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a short leet was applied specifically to a short list of nominees for the seats of the retiring members of a burgh council. This short leet was a culled version of the original, much longer, list of nominees for these posts, the longer list being known as a long leet. It was the reduced list, or short leet, which formed the basis of the voting. Leet could also be a verb and meant to put a candidate’s name on a select list.

A quick google search shows that the phrase is still in use, but only in Scotland. And even so, it’s not very common.

The reason I thought about it is because I’m working on my occasionally-annual-and-rarely-timely Radio Sunpig playlist for 2015. iTunes used to make it easy for me to compile my short leet, because since 2005 I had used a fairly rigorous classification scheme for rating songs that I downloaded and listened to. The short leet was basically the list of 5 star songs from each year.

I use Spotify instead of iTunes now, and Spotify doesn’t have granular options for rating songs. So I’m having to use a combination of Spotify’s playlists (junk),’s listening history (actually very good), and my own Mixed Media posts here on to help me out. I’m annoyed at iTunes because Spotify doesn’t have ratings. See how that works?

Anyway, Radio Sunpig 2015 incoming soon. Some great songs last year.