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My 2011 New Years resolutions:

1. Stop trying to improve myself.
2. Get Tim Maly to make me write more essays.
3. Make my peace with Wired, and Print Media In General.
4. Finish my anti-productivity essay.
5. Get more pitches rejected.
6. Send out the rest of my Christmas cards.
7. Continue to grow hair, nails.
9. Cut down on the obsessive precision crap.
10. Up my meds.

For 6 ramekins:

For Custard

* 2 cups whipping cream
* 1/2 cup sugar- turbinado, demerara, muscovado, whatever.
* 1 vanilla bean. Seriously, not extract, bean. Soft and squishy preferred.
* 5 large egg yolks

For Crème Brûlée

* white sugar

You’ll need:

* Cheesecloth
* Baking pan
* Aforementioned ramekins
* Propane torch

Quick instructions:

Put the whipping cream and sugar in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean, spread it out and use a paring knife to scrape out the innards into the saucepan, then throw the rest in.

Preheat oven to 325.

Separate 5 eggs, keeping the yolk. Try to get rid of as much non-yolk as possible. Use a vigorous whisk get the yolks a bit fluffy.

Throw the cream on medium heat. Cook the cream, stirring nearly constantly for a minimum of 10 minutes. Let it scald at some point. When it’s cooked up, pour it through cheesecloth to filter, into something that pours well.

Boil some water. Arrange the ramekins in a baking pan.

Pour cream into the egg yolks in a very slow drizzle while continuing to whisk. After most of the cream is in you can pour slightly faster, but keep it blended and frothy.

Pour mixture into the ramekins, and fill the baking dish with the boiling water, taking care to not get any water in the ramekins. Put it in the oven, back 30-35 minutes until just the center of the custard shakes a little if you shake the dish.

Pull them out and cool them in the fridge for three hours – two days.

When they are firmed up and cool, put the ramekin on a plate to catch sugar and spoon an even coat over the top. Burn sugar to desired brown, put back in the fridge for 15 minutes at least, but not more than an hour. (It’s possible to firm up gone-soft sugar with more fire, but not recommended)


Participatory Bureaucracy

I’ve been playing with Transparency Corps, which I would like to write about. Besides being intriguing it would make my time marking up earmarks in the system research time rather than distraction from work.

It’s an interesting experience doing the earmark project, wherein you, the human, transcribe the vital data on earmark letters for the thousands of mysteriously funded projects that roll down the hill unto the masses. I am terrified of getting something wrong, and I already have once, but have no way of fixing it. Alas.

It’s nice to think of Sunlight getting all this civically-minded mechanical turk data, I’m almost more interested in the people, who, like me, are suddenly poking their noses in and wondering what these occult bit of government actually do. You simply cannot transcribe these earmarks without thinking about them. Some of them look like damn good ideas. Some of them seem just a bit off. Scariest, some of them so obviously have not been thought about by any human being between the requester and you- completely sliding through the government system in a form letter of appropriations. (Also, what the hell is with none of these earmarks giving funding amounts? )

Go to, sign up, and try out a few earmarks. For a boring task, it’s a pretty interesting experience.

Pirated music for all

I pulled John Cage’s ultimate chill song, 4’33” off iTunes, and am posting it here for all comers. This really is a universally loved song- everyone gets in the mood for it on occasion. Sometimes I just put it on loop and play it all night long, a bit like a Whitney Houston fan.

Let me know if there’s any problems with the track, and enjoy: 4 minutes, 33 seconds

Tab Dump

Matt  Taibbi explains, in his illimitable way,  how we’re all horribly fucked. The Big Takeover: The global economic crisis isn’t about money – it’s about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution.

Plastic and reconstructive surgery as art at Apexart in NYC: I am Art- An Expression of the Visual & Artistic Process of Plastic Surgery

(video) Ira Glass explains how narrative works, and in general rocks the free world:
Host and producer of This American Life at Gel 2007

Paul Ford breaths deeply when nervous:  How to vacuum your lungs

Body hacking of another kind: Learning to work out with a cervical spinal injury.

Last year I was diagnosed with disk disease in my cervical spine, aka the neck. At least one disk is herniated (poking into the actual spinal cord) and the other ones aren’t looking too keen either. On top of that I was dealing with a crush of the ulnar nerve through the elbow, which might have been related to the neck injury as well. It caused pain and headaches the likes of which I’d never imagined, plus some loss of fine motor control in my hands- not fun for a writer.

Note the serrations in my spinal cord and the lack of curvature in my pine.

Note the "serrations" in my spinal cord and the lack of curvature in my neck. Ow.

This year I am recovering, and for the first time in a long time I can exercise and do rehabilitation, a process I will document here.

First off, there is something I am not going to do for a long time, if ever again. For a while my main workout was Krav Maga, which I loved doing. But Krav is dangerous and violent, and my neck is still in no shape to take those kind of risks. It was the best work out of my life, and I miss it.

What I can do is build up pretty much every muscle in my body that doesn’t cause me neck pain to work on. I had my first meeting with Winston, my personal trainer on the 15th. We did arms, legs, and plank for core. He tried to get me to do a sit up, I flatly refused- I can’t do them without hurting my neck. He also tried to do some stretching and decompressing of my neck by basically pulling on my head very carefully. This backfired a bit and gave me some headaches. But we have another appointment on the 2nd, and he plans to talk to a more experienced physical therapist about how best I can work around my vague disability.

That’s my main take away: get help and complain a lot. If it hurts, don’t do it, and let the PT know.

This idea of exercise as body hacking departs from my own, but I can see its validity. In fact, I was very touched by a post in 2007 where a physical therapist decided to post a top five body hacks list after seeing my presentation. There is a certain magical quality to attention, and when it’s paid to the body, it can teach you much about yourself as well as making you stronger.