25 July 2009

Garlic hummus

I've made hummus from scratch a couple of times now, and I love it. (I love chickpeas!) In comparison, store-bought hummus is thin, tastes bland, and kind of has a chemical/artificial flavor. Making your own hummus is really easy. Here's my recipe.

There's a lot of room for variation, and people have different preferences for the various dimensions of hummus: consistency, creaminess, spiciness, tartness, etc. Here are some approximate amounts to get you started. Start with the following; I recommend some experimentation. (This recipe is capable of making a thick hummus, suitable for pita chips as well as sandwiches.)

Instructions: In a food processor, blend the following ingredients:

  • 2 cans chickpeas. I boil these, remove as many of the husks as I care to, and drain them. This softens them and takes some of the salt away.
  • 4 cloves garlic. Toasting these in a pan, dry, for a few minutes takes some of the bite off.
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • salt
  • pepper (black and/or cayenne)
  • paprika (I love hot paprika)
  • a little (on the order of a few tbsp) water

This will not get you all the way there, but you should be able to obtain your ideal hummus by using this as your starting point and performing gradient descent with the last 7 ingredients. (Translation: season to taste.) Be careful not to use too much sesame oil, it can quickly overwhelm the rest of the flavors.

Empty into a bowl and let it sit in the fridge for two hours to let the flavors mix.

22 July 2009

Esther's German Bakery

Esther's German Bakery has weißwurst (weisswurst) on their menu, and it's not bad— the best I've found in the states (N = 2). They even serve it with the traditional sweet mustard (as well as a pretzel and radishes).

14 July 2009

The Fabric of Reality

I read The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch. With Brian Greene's similarly-titled book still fresh in my mind, when I read the words "theory of everything" I was expecting a book about the implications of a quantum theory of gravity. But Deutsch's aims are far grander than that. He imagines a "theory of everything" in which we can identify common principles that apply to everything from fundamental physics to biology, computation, or economics.

Deutsch rightly makes a point of trying to change scientific dialogue to center around explanations rather than predictions. After all, any idiot can come up with a theory that is consistent with observed evidence (cough, creationism, cough). Instead, we have to judge theories by their explanatory power. In the "theory of everything" as he imagines it, Deutsch does not picture all knowledge as being explained in terms of fundamental physics, because an explanation which crosses too many levels of abstraction is not illuminating at all. Rather, Deutsch makes the case that we can uncover general principles that connect apparently disparate fields, and that such links are the only way we can really comprehend the universe. He gives examples of principles from quantum physics, evolution, epistemology, and the theory of computation— what he calls "the four strands"— that can help us understand all of the others.

I think the vision is a good one but its execution here is just too muddled. According to Deutsch the multiverse (many-worlds) theory is the only sensible interpretation of quantum mechanics. But he really just hand-waves his way to this conclusion without making any compelling arguments in its favor. Now, I'll grant that there is ambiguity surrounding the "correct" interpretation of QM. But it's still a huge leap from there to claim, as Deutsch does, that the multiverse theory has implications for morality, ethics, and free will. I just don't buy that.

What really bothers me about this book is Deutsch's highly specific and fantastic extrapolation. He asserts vast generalizations of principles such as the Church-Turing thesis, but his justifications seems to be nothing more than wishful thinking. Deutsch does advertise his claims as speculation, but it seems that he is falling into one of the traps he himself warns against: that is, believing that pure logic can make any meaningful statements about the physical universe.

There are many interesting nuggets in this book, and it is certainly intellectually challenging, but on the whole I wouldn't recommend it.

09 July 2009

Apple HTTP Live Streaming

Apple Insider, Apple launches HTTP Live Streaming standard in iPhone 3.0:

One of the more overlooked features of the new iPhone 3.0 is support for a new open standard for live video streaming over HTTP, which promises to open up standards-based video broadcasting to a wide audience while giving mobile users an optimized picture as they roam between WiFi and mobile networks. [...]

Essentially, Apple wants a standard for streaming video that anyone can use so that it can continue selling hardware without being either shut out of the market by proprietary software [Microsoft's "smooth streaming" method], or held captive by it...

Oh, Apple doesn't want to be held hostage by proprietary software, huh? How cute.