Monday, February 20, 2012

Getting to grips with D3 Visualisations

D3 is a great library for creating all kinds of data visualisations written by Mike Bostock, but until recently I just couldn't get to grips with it. But then I discovered Scott Murray's great series of tutorials that start with the basics and build up and Luke Francl's appropriately named D3 for Mere Mortals. I've done some basic charts and am now rewriting the Protembla project management visualisations in D3. A big thank you to Mike, Scott and Luke.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What is the US of A?

Watching the BBC's Panorama program on poverty in the USA lately I was shocked at the levels of homelessness, hunger and lack of healthcare in the US, still the richest country in world and still pushing their way of life on the rest of us. Even more shocking to me was the attitudes of the Republican politicians, it's your life, it's your responsibility and if you can't afford to go to the doctor, well that's your problem.

To me that is not civilized. I think one of the measures of a civilization is how it treats its weak and how it treats its animals. Even the more sophisticated animals look after their sick, their younge and their old.

But then I realised America is not a civilisation, it's not a culture, it's an economy. As an economy the measure of their success is how strong their economy is and weeding out the weak is a necessary part of maintaining that success. But has that always been so?

I don't think so. American is given us much to experiment with, some of it we love, so we don't and much we absorb without question and I think the love of money and this concept that the economy is our lord and master that cares only for sort term profit, falls in that latter category. Where that came from I don't know, but I don't think it was part of the plan of any of the cultures that found themselves there over the centuries.

Personally I am happy to live in less affluent Ireland, despite it's many problems, where we care for each other, are embarrassed to hear of people falling through the net and ashamed of our greed getting the better of us in the last years. I'd much rather be poor and part of caring community than rich and living behind locked gates.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Panic! - Beef stew without onions

I don't think I have ever made beef stew without an onion but I'd defrosted the beef and wasn't going to drive all the way into town for an onion so it was time to improvise.

I'm going through a ginger and, separately, an apple phase at the moment and also watching How to Cook like Heston - cheese programme was the latest. So having just finished a rich and satisfying beef stew, here is a rough and ready recipe:

Brown the beef chunks in hot oil then added glass (or two) of red wine to deglaze.
Add tins of chopped tomatoes in roughly equal quantity to the beef - in my case two tins, plus a bit of extra water to wash the tins out.
Add roughly copped garlic - three big cloves
Add roughly chopped ginger - two tables spoons
Oyster Sauce - two tablespoons
Rind or a large piece of hard goats cheese (thanks Heston)

Brought to the boil and then simmered for an hour with the lid on as didn't want to reduce.

Added one large cooking apple chopped in large chunks without skins and simmered for another 10 mins. You want the apple to be cooked but not disintegrated.

Was planning to add some cous cous but the larder was bare of cous cous so had wholemeal fusili cooked in the juice of the stew instead.

Really rich an filling and the chunks of apple were a nice surprise. The cheese rind really worked and easy to identify and pull out before eating. Mmmmmm.