June 8th, 2013

learning languages by translating with Duolingo

Check out this video: Duolingo uses the process of translation to teach you a new language.

I believe that translating is a good way to improve your language skills, both in the source and target language. Thankfully I also get paid to do so.

This is a cross-post from my facebook page: Jonathan Beaton Translations.

July 9th, 2012

tea eggs

Photo via globetrotterdiaries.

I just discovered the aggregatator/blog Tasteologie, home to some intriguing and experimental recipes. I have spent and will spend quite a while fishing for ideas here.

I will share two egg dishes that impressed me. One is the Chinese ‘tea egg’. Wiki:

Fragrant and flavorful tea eggs are a traditional Chinese food. The original recipe uses various spices, soy sauce, and black tea leaves. A commonly used spice for flavoring tea eggs is Chinese five-spice powder, which contains ground cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns. Some recipes [1] do not use tea leaves, but they are still called “tea eggs”. In the traditional method of preparation, eggs are boiled until they reach a hardened, cooked state. The boiled eggs are removed from the water, and the entire shell of each egg is gently cracked all around. Smaller cracks produce more marbling when the egg is peeled for eating. The extra water from the boiling should be allowed to seep out of the eggs on its own. After about ten minutes, the cracked eggs are ready to be put into the prepared spiced-tea liquid and simmered at medium heat. The simmering allows the spiced fluid to seep into the cracks and marinate the eggs inside their shells. After about 20 minutes, the eggs and the spiced-tea liquid should be transferred to a glass or ceramic container for further steeping in a refrigerator. For best results, the eggs should be allowed to steep for two days. The dark color of the spiced tea gives the egg a marbled effect when it is peeled to be eaten.

The other recipe is simply an egg cooked inside a small courgette.

I would like to try the same but inside a small, white eggplant, like this one.

Eightball-Zuchinni Egg recipe

April 9th, 2012

the public domain review

I’ve only just acquainted myself with this website and already I am somewhere between impressed and in love… Two titles I’ve discovered via the site so far include Het Eerste Kabinet der Dieren and the Natural History of Shakespeare, and they are available online via archive.org

April 3rd, 2012

garbage collection by ants and other demonstrations

I’m very impressed by the Wolfram Demonstrations Project. All manner of interactive scientific experiments and calculations. Gives fascinating insights into physics, biology, chemistry and and more. I could browse the site all day. So far I have enjoyed the demonstrations of the doppler effect and of garbage collection by ants the most. The accompanying text of the latter…

Assume there are many tiny pieces of garbage scattered on a 2D square space, where many ants are wandering to forage randomly. Each ant individual behaves according to the following very simple rules when it comes to a place where there is some garbage.
1. If the ant is holding a piece of garbage, it drops it off there.
2. If the ant isn’t holding any garbage, it picks up a piece of garbage there.
What would result from these rules? Are the garbage pieces going to be scattered more and more due to these brainless insects? Interestingly, these very simple behavioral rules let the ants spontaneously collect and pile up garbage and clear up the space in the long run. This model tells us how such emergent behavior of the collective is often inconsistent with our usual intuition.
This Demonstration simulates this model using a real-time agent-based modeling technique. Black dots represent ants. Yellow dots represent pieces of garbage. When more pieces of garbage are piled up at the same location, the color becomes darker.


January 18th, 2012

caroline prisse

Dutch artist Caroline Prisse.

June 11th, 2010

go go go

Van Gogh, Landscape with Cottages. Late 1890.

The website Van Gogh Gallery has an easy to browse collection of hundreds of privately owned and publicly displayed paintings by the artist. Some of them you rarely see, like the above watercolour sketch.

March 9th, 2010

significant objects

The blog Un-canny Ontology recently took a look at the website significantobjects.com from the point of view of Heidegger’s object-orientated philosophy.

For those of you not familiar with the site significantobjects.com, the goal of the site was to see if given significance, random everyday objects could take on objective significance, as well. As the site explains:

A talented, creative writer invents a story about an object. Invested with new significance by this fiction, the object should — according to our hypothesis — acquire not merely subjective but objective value. How to test our theory? Via eBay!

As demonstrated from some of the entries, these objects are not “rare” or “important” objects by any means. In fact a lot of the times these objects are purchased from thrift stores or garage sales for just a couple of bucks (max). A “fictional” account of the object’s significance is added and then sold and bought on eBay – usually purchased for way more than the item was originally worth. But what I find fascinating about this experiment is that it is purposefully doing something that we often do without thinking about it – that is, adding significance to objects. This led me to question, what is significance and how/why is it important for our understanding of object-oriented philosophy?

More of that post here.

Significant Objects is an interesting experiment, although I would argue that a lot of the significance created around these objects comes from the fact that they are featured on the website as part of the project, and not necessarily from the made-up stories.

February 28th, 2010

Mihyang Kim

Mihyang Kim, Self-Portrait in October 2009.
Acrylic on canvas | 2009 | 61 x 71 cm

My work is about nature and the human body. Painting nature and the human body is the easiest way to express my ideas because I grew up in the countryside and I am a nurse. I am inspired by nature and organic shapes and vivid colors that can be found in the outside world and biological bodies. I think nature and human bodies live in co-existence with each other. My work has common themes of balance and co-existence. The balance found in nature and also the fight for balance and co-existence in human life or political struggles.

Mihyang’s website.

February 17th, 2010

anna charina’s russian scenery

First Ice. Moscow River with B. Ustinsky Bridge
(trans. Google Translate!) by Anna Charina

I found Anna Charina‘s painting blog completely by chance. If you speak Russian, then here’s a link without Google Translate engaged.

January 24th, 2010

kids can name 120 pokemon but not their native wildlife

Phylomon.org is a noble project seeking to make our native wildlife as inspiring and exciting to young people as the creators of the Pokemon mythos have made their synthetic creatures.

Conservationist Andrew Balmford’s letter in the Science:

… it appears that conservationists are doing less well than the creators of Pokemon at inspiring interest in their subjects: During their primary school years, children apparently learn far more about Pokemon than about their native wildlife and enter secondary school being able to name less than 50% of common wildlife types. Evidence from elsewhere links loss of knowledge about the natural world to growing isolation from it. People care about what they know. With the world’s urban population rising by 160,000 people daily, conservationists need to reestablish children’s links with nature if they are to win over the hearts and minds of the next generation

The Grimpoteuthis (right), a deep-sea-dwelling octopus, even looks a bit like a Pikachu. Perhaps that’s a good place to start.

I hope they see some interest in their project! The stimulus behind it is something that I’ve found disturbing too (even as an erstwhile Pokémon fan).

And the same applies to the idea of extra terrestrials: People get excited about the idea of finding alien life, but there is more terrestrial life unexplored on our own planet than we could ever fully appreciate.

(via kottke)

Incidentally: Its the UN International Year of Biodiversity!

December 29th, 2009

The Times Skimmer


The New York Times has developed a very clever little gadget — The Times Skimmer — to let you skim their online newspaper in a similarly quick and efficient way to how you would skim a real paper to find the interesting articles.

It seems to be made with netbooks and other mobile devices in mind, because it fits my screen like a glove, whereas their regular site is indeed a bit of a nightmare to navigate efficiently.

Great design solution!

Posted in Design, Site | No Comments »
December 5th, 2009


Photo by ckck.

via the excellent Light Boner photo blog by Jarred Bishop.

November 28th, 2009

101 cookbooks

Above: Heidi’s Giant Black Bean Salad

Heidi Swanson’s recipe blog 101 Cookbooks is glorious: All adventurous, healthy and yet covetable food, described intelligently and photographed beautifully.

The premise this site was built on is best summed up in two sentences: When you own over 100 cookbooks, it is time to stop buying, and start cooking. This site chronicles a cookbook collection, one recipe at a time.

Meticulously organized, lovingly maintained: what a resource this site is!

October 23rd, 2009

Is the average worth reporting?

Today, I was face painting at a carnival for my little brothers elementary school. All of the girls had been asking for butterflies, hearts, flowers etc. One girl walked up and as I began naming off some choices such as the generic hearts and flowers she cut me off and simply said, “A blue moustache please.” Coolest kid ever. MLIA

My Life is Average is a fun site that allows users to submit little anecdotes from their day to day lives. It ends up (from what i’ve observed) being a celebration of little sparks of originality and humour in the banal. I approve.

Another aspect of it I admire is the sort of eerie warmth you get from reading these anonymous entries, connecting with the faceless authors.

Posted in Ha!, Site | No Comments »
September 20th, 2009

hooked on heat


I’m not sure if I’ve posted about Meena Agarwal’s blog before — Hooked on Heat — but it’s a great resource for those interested in Indian cuisine, from beginners to those who are already “hooked on heat”.

Meena discusses not only the recipes but also their context in Indian culture, and explains how the different components in Indian cuisine go together to make a meal.

Indian Cooking 101 and How Not To Cook Indian Food are two nice places to dig in if you’re not sure where to start with this e-tome.

I just prepared the recipe, from part 3 of Meena’s Intro To Indian, for a coriander/mint chutney. It’s really easy; you just blend everything together and you’re done. I used nectarines instead of mango because I didn’t have any mango to hand (Meena probably would not approve, but it turned out nicely).

August 29th, 2009

BBC Nature


The BBC’s Nature website is quite marvelous, from what I’ve seen so far. It lists many species according to their taxonomic rank (class, order, family, genus and species). It’s beautifully illustrated and quite informative. This part of the site basically takes wikipedia content and makes it pretty, but there is exclusive content too.

The above image is from the page for the order hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, horntails and sawflies).

May 22nd, 2009

ideas in food



L20 is food blog written by Laurent Gras. Gras passionately documents his innovative gastronomic creations. There’s lots of things that excite me on this blog, particularly his basil cubes, cloned egg and cloned strawberries, his beet salad, shisho noodle, spring vegetable consomme (pictured above), grapefruit in a different form, cotton candy radish soy, etc., etc…

Here’s a post titled “Chaos Theory” from another great food blog, Ideas in Food:

In times of duress or stress it is important to eat well. The body needs nourishment to support physical activities and mental acuity. Of course these are the times when diets go out the window, we eat whatever is easy and quick, and if sugar and fat are involved, the more the better. We’re in the midst of moving into our new home, Mother’s Day weekend had it’s own unnecessary dramas, and combined with the single biggest purchase and move we’ve ever made, it’s safe to say that we haven’t been eating well. It’s hard to cook a good meal when you have no idea where the pots and pans are. Tonight after we picked up the cats and finally reunited the family (they’ve been boarding with family for the last two months) we drew a line in the sand. Alex ran out to the market for a roasted chicken and good salad greens. We cracked open a very nice bottle of wine. There was no bread, butter, or frills and none were needed. It may not have been home cooked but it was a simple, healthy and delicious meal. Nourishment is what we were after and we rediscovered how much better the world looks after a good meal.

Here’s another little rumination called It’s a beginning, from the same blog:

Using and understanding relationships to inspire innovation. It’s a relatively simple concept. In relation to cooking it involves building a body of knowledge. In order to innovate efficiently and well, one must understand the basic relationships in the kitchen. Not the relationship between chefs and cooks, the relationships between ingredients and their environment. Cooking is about what happens when you apply heat or cold to an edible object. It’s about how different proportions affect you final outcome. It’s about how structures are affected by being altered, whether it’s the way that you butcher an animal or whether you peel celery or whether you apply liquid nitrogen or moist heat to a raspberry. What happens next is the question that drives chefs and scientists alike. If you can understand the basic relationships then you can make an educated guess about what happens next. This knowledge is what leads to innovation because if you understand why something happens then you can puzzle out a better way to do it. Life is not just about getting from Point A to Point B, it’s about doing it well and enjoying the journey.

Gras also contributes similarly philosophical entries to his food blog, such as this one on food energy. Snip:

When I was riding my bike I was thinking about eating for endurance for sport. When you’re doing a sport and you feel hungry – it is already too late for your body to catch up with the time it take to eat and digest the energy. It made me think about 2 o’clock every afternoon when all of a sudden I am very hungry and tired. I wonder why I don’t think about this more when I am in the kitchen. I thought it would be interesting to look on-line for some information on this. I found this information on Wikipedia (…)

These sites via growabrain.

May 11th, 2009

listen in to american police, fire, ems radio

Aengus of Sredkistrasse brought my attention to this very novel site (hours of fun I say):

Back when I was in school, I’d have to wait an hour or so before being collected by one of my parents on the way home from work. In this time, I’d usually spend the time hanging about with what friends would loiter a bit longer after school, but occasionally I’d go find an empty classroom and get some work done.

There was one chap, a right arsehole if truth be told, who’d come around occasionally, listening to the cops and other emergency services on his radio scanner. I’d always wanted to get one, but they were prohibitively expensive, and, anyhow, at the time I lived in the middle of nowhere, so it wouldn’t have served much use.

Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I can finally live out these past dreams. On scanamerica.us you can listen in on the emergency services in some counties of some states.

Sredkistrasse | scanamerica

Posted in Ha!, Radio, Site | No Comments »

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