On cooking

Posted in books, food at 1:36 am by wingerz

A couple of recent things have inspired me to cook more:

Over the past few years, there have been a lot of food-related services that have popped up, many of which we tried last summer when Max was born. But for some reason for now I’ve continued to insist on weekly visits to the market and, much to Jen’s chagrin, a never-ending cycle of dirtying and cleaning all of our pots and dishes. With two kids I definitely found myself wondering whether I was being irrational, whether I should be focusing my efforts elsewhere on things that couldn’t be streamlined out of my life.

And then I read Cooked. The book is structured in four parts, one part for each fundamental element (fire, water, air, earth). In each part he dives deep into a particular method of cooking (barbecuing, braising, breadmaking, and fermenting) – I was completely hooked even before I got to the chapter that talked about Tartine bread. I share the same reasons for enjoying cooking:

  • It’s so different from what I do all day: sit in front of a computer.
  • There’s an immense amount of satisfaction that comes from constructing something from raw materials, even if you could have acquired the end product for less time and less money. If nothing else, it creates a deeper appreciation for those who have mastered their craft.
  • It’s a way to show your love for others. I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening than to cook a meal and share with loved ones.
  • One more that I’ll add to the list – I’m not sure why this is but I really enjoy using stuff up, whether it’s sticks of butter, bags of flour, meat in the freezer, vegetables that comes in our CSA box.

This weekend I baked my first loaf of bread in several years.


My experience with Blue Apron has been interesting. I got a free week from JR, and I didn’t realize I had to cancel six days in advance so we ended up with two weeks (six meals). Overall I think it’s a good service, though not for me.

You get a large insulated box full of ice packs and everything you need (except for salt and olive oil) to make six meals. The packaging gets the job done but is borderline comical, there’s just so much of it. The recipes were tasty and well-balanced (not many leafy vegetables – not sure if it’s always like that or if it’s because transporting them would be hard). The portions were a good size (probably wouldn’t have been big enough for me 10 years ago, but I’ve slowed down).

On a weeknight I have about 20-25 minutes to cook dinner so that we have enough time to eat and then get the kids into bath and bed. Of the six, I cooked two on weeknights (patty melt, spiced pork), the rest I saved for the weekend.

In any case, I’m already going grocery shopping multiple times a week. It is really nice to have the peace of mind of knowing that you have the exact right amount of all the ingredients you need. If we cooked less often and didn’t go to the market and grocery store so often I could see this being more compelling.


I definitely have my favorite recipes these days; the things I cook the most frequently are ones that I can whip up pretty quickly with minimal fuss. I’m probably getting into a bit of a rut with my salads and desserts and things (still tasty, but probably boring).

Getting a pressure cooker has helped with that – tonight I was able to make a pot roast in less than 2 hours (instead of 4). I affectionately refer to my pressure cooker as a ‘pot full of science’ – it really is a time saver. Beans in 10 minutes, stews in 25, roasts in 90 (times under pressure). Still trying to master it; I overcook things more often than not, but it’s been a lot of fun.


Anyways, it’s obvious that I’ve been blogging a lot less about recipes (and blogging here a lot less in general), but cooking continues to be a big part of our lives. It seems strange that something so fundamental has become something that I’ve started to question – modern day life has let us optimize away a lot of our daily routines. But I don’t think there’s a replacement for picking and handling raw ingredients, filling the house with wonderful aromas, and sitting down together to share a meal.


My favorite non-technical books

Posted in books, technology at 2:36 pm by wingerz

I’m kind of a sucker for business and management books. I’ve read quite a few over the years (actually, ‘read’ is a pretty strong word, usually I just skim and take notes on things that interest me). These are the ones that I keep referring back to (and recommend to people on my team).

Tribal Leadership (Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright): The language used by members of the team tells you a lot about its coherence; this book proposes that there are 5 successive stages of team culture. It’s a nice framework for thinking about how to coach a team along from one state to another to improve effectiveness.

Great by Choice (Jim Collins, Morten T. Hansen): My favorite Jim Collins book with a lot of useful lessons on how the best companies are incredibly disciplined and careful with their investments.

Crucial Conversations (Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler): Super, super helpful both at work and at home (even if you don’t memorize all of the helpful mnemonics). Except when I get in trouble with the wife for telling her to stick to the facts.

Kanban (David J. Anderson): My favorite software process book; it’s guided a lot of the things that I’ve tried to do at Yelp over the past few years. After working in a scrum environment for a couple of years I didn’t think that it would quite fit with what we were trying to do. Kanban emphasizes focus, teamwork, and incremental change.


Finishing things

Posted in books, games, personal at 1:23 am by wingerz

Somehow I unintentionally ended up wrapping up a lot of in-flight consumption last weekend. Kind of a strange cross-media collection of things.

Principles of Product Development Flow. Goes deep into the theory side of things, but a lot of great ideas in here, especially around looking at work queues and economics. Not the first agile development book I’d recommend reading (that would be Kanban), but maybe the second.

End This Depression Now. Trying to be less clueless about things in general.

Giants of Enterprise. Fascinating read about 7 American businessmen (Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, George Eastman, Charles Revson, Thomas J Watson Sr., Sam Walton, Robert Noyce) about their personalities and business acumen. I’m surprised that IBM training doesn’t have more material on Watson Sr. The last chapter, about Robert Noyce and the emergence of the Silicon Valley, is definitely worth a read for software engineer.

Chrono Trigger. Crossed off the biggest item on my SNES to-play list. I’d started it several times in the last 10 years but always lost momentum. Really enjoyed the combat and story. Felt bad that I GameFAQ’ed my way through the final bosses, but would have felt worse if I never beat the game. Still like FFVI (or rather, my memories of FFVI) better.

Archer Season 4. Meh on the season finale.

Arrested Development, seasons 1-3. Have been chipping away at this for months and wrapped it up right before Season 4 started (we’re about 2/3 of the way through).


Guanxi: Microsoft in China

Posted in books, sloan piggybacking, technology at 12:19 am by wingerz


Today at lunch I went to see Robert Buderi and Gregory T. Huang speak about their book, Guanxi (The Art of Relationships): Microsoft, China, and Bill Gates’s Plan to Win the Road Ahead. The talk was about the way Microsoft recognized the importance of getting into China, forged relationships, and established a research lab, sending the now (in)famous Kai-Fu Lee over to get the lab started. Bill Gates seems to be doing a fine job nurturing his Chinese relationships, as he’s visited a dozen or so times, and he was President Hu’s first stop earlier this year. The lab has been a great success, and recently Lee has been heading up the effort to set up a Google research lab in Beijing. With Yahoo looking to start up a lab there as well, things in Beijing could get very interesting on the search front.

Sounds like it’s worth a read.