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[Comments] (2) Creative Cormorant: And we're back. Kevin did an OS upgrade on this webserver so now we have all sorts of goodies like Apache 2 (which means mod_py (which means mod_py support for NewsBruiser) and a Subversion repository (which means SubWiki (which means a NewsBruiser documentation/fun Wiki)). Yes, it's all about NewsBruiser here. And parentheses. Speaking of the world's premiere news bruising software package, I just released version 2.4.0, "Creative Cormorant". Not only does it have integrated Creative Commons licensing support, it fixes several a couple bugs in the configuration interface that could cause you to lose data, so I definitely recommend upgrading.

[Comments] (4) Everything Is A Design Pattern, Or, Hooray For Bookfinder: A while ago, in the used bookstore in Mountain View, I saw a magical book. It looked to have been published in the 1950s and it was a cookbook, but not just any cookbook. Instead of a list of recipes it laid out these sort of design patterns for food. I thought this was a great idea and I think it's the basic concept you need to easily teach cooking to computer geeks. To cook food you need to have the techniques and you need to have a mental map of food textures and flavors so that you can pick ingredients that go with each other and with the techniques you're using. Patterns work for both skills.

This is, incidentally, the best thing about Alton Brown's style of cooking pedagogy; he shows you the makeup of dishes, how to analyze them, and the connections between them. One of the best examples of this is that in some episode or other of Good Eats he points out that a cheesecake is structurally a custard, not a cake. It needs to be cooked in a hot bath, not just baked in a pan just because it has 'cake' in its name.

Anyway, for some reason I didn't buy that book! It cost $10 and I guess I decided it wasn't worth it. Later I changed my mind, but the last time I went to that bookstore it was gone.

Today I idly searched Bookfinder for "cooking patterns" and I found it! I don't remember the (long, unwieldy) title and I can't search for it anymore because I bought it and there are no other listed copies, but by a fortunate confluence of minds the author put "patterns" in the title so I was able to find it. And at about the same price it was being offered at the used bookstore! The $3.00 extra I'm paying to have it shipped to me I will chalk up as a "lesson learned" surcharge. The relevant lesson, of course, is: never take chances! Buy EVERY BOOK!

If I ever write a cookbook (which I might) it's going to be a synthesis of this cookbook I've got coming to me in the mail and Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For The Food. It'll be organized around the principles of recipe schemas and recipe transformations based on ingredient or technique. If you can make x, you can make y by applying a transformation. You can start slow, gradually build a repertoire you're comfortable with, but always keep experimenting within the bounds of the known if you don't want to learn a whole new skill to make something different.

I think cooking should be more like quantum chemistry and less like high school chemistry. There's always going to be a subjective element, but I think it can be factored out and that you can learn even from reading about transformations that involve stuff you don't like.


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