socks, umami, turtles, and tech

/u/whattodobedroom, I (28) think my girlfriend (26) has been using my gym socks to wipe after going to the bathroom.

This story is wild. I don’t know if it’s real or not, but it’s a pretty good story. The one thing I’d have changed is that he shouldn’t have given away the twist so soon. It would’ve been really good to have that mystery all through the story until he discovers what she used his socks for.

Eliot Stein & Mari Shibata, Is Japan losing its umami?

So Japanese soy sauce is mostly made in steel vats nowadays, which means that the flavor of the microbes in the wood of traditional kioke (fermentation vessels) is missing. One producer of traditional shoyu, Yasuo Yamamoto, is advocating for the traditional method and learning how to make kioke, to keep the tradition alive.

Base seasoning is mostly mass produced. Hardly any real products left, Yamamoto said. When the ability to produce kioke barrels disappears … the main ingredients will also disappear. There is a need to preserve the real thing and pass it on to my children and grandchildren’s generations. That’s our mission.

My worry about losing these traditional processes is that it makes our society that much more dependent on big industry to make these things. What if something catastrophic happens and we aren’t able to use electricity anymore? The big factories will lie empty while no one ever tastes something like soy sauce again (or at least, not for a very long time). It makes us more brittle, more dependent on technology that can fail, that is outside ourselves, than the traditional methods.

It’s not about controlling the bacteria. Rather, it’s about helping the bacteria to naturally thrive in this environment and let it do its thing. Yamamoto, in the video in the story

Isn’t this a great metaphor for how to stay healthy, as well? Like mentally — the thing I try to do most is to let myself be, not trying to control my environment, but living within it, and letting myself do my thing and letting everything else do its thing.

[…] the Yamamotos have created and maintained their two distinct shoyu varieties over generations: the robust, creamy and intensely rich Tsuru and the lighter and more delicate Kikuza.

So I looked up these prices, and from what I can tell (the pages are in Japanese) the price for 500 ml of either kind they sell is ¥1080, or less than $10.Apparently, you can only get it in the States for $3.33 an ounce (or $60 for an 18-ounce bottle). I’m not sure if that’s due to import/export costs, the fancy tax, or if I totally read the website wrong. Either way, not as cool for me.

Okay, that was on Amazon (not linking because Amazon SUCKS), but on the Gourmet Import Shop it’s much cheaper, only $19.95 (though it is out of stock as of right now). So that’s not as bad — it’s only a doubling of the local price, which I can understand with shipping and import/export.

That’s extremely affordable, so much so that I wonder why the other stuff is even made.

By the time Yamamoto’s newest kioke are fully caked in the family’s centuries-old bacteria, he may be gone. By the time they finally split apart to reveal the family names written inside, his children and grandchildren may be, too. But Yamamoto hopes that whoever discovers them in the future realises something he learned long ago: The reason I can consume this soy sauce today is because somebody I didn’t know hundreds of years ago made it.

Talk about thinking ahead and behind. I was reading something else about the relationship we have with the past and the future, and how important it is to remember those binds. It also makes me think about some quote I read about how capitalism robs us of our past and sells our future back to us so that we live in a constant, disappointing present. I can’t remember where I read that.

Paulette Bourgeois & Brenda Clark, Franklin and the Thunderstorm

I read this book while I was reshelving. It was a cute little story about Franklin, the turtle who’s scared of thunderstorms, and he goes over to his friend Fox’s house and then a storm hits. He’s scared but his friends tell him stories about the cloud giants making the thunder and lightning and he feels better.

My main takeaway was that it’s nice Franklin has those friends who support him enough that they help him be less afraid. I think everyone needs friends like that. It reminded me of the friendship in Pen15.

James Cowling, Don’t lead by example

I do a lot of reading off [Hacker News][HN], which means that a lot of the stuff I read has no real bearing on my life. For example, I don’t manage a team and never have, so this article about not leading by example doesn’t give me any concrete, use-it-now advice. However, it’s something to keep in my back pocket in case I do ever take on a leadership role.

We all need to set a good example but trying to lead by example is weak at best and passive-aggressive at worst.

Main point: basically, if you’re a team lead and try to show your team what to do by doing it for them, they’ll think you know best or that you don’t want them to do anything so they won’t do anything. What’s important is setting expectations and following them, so that everyone knows what they’re supposed to do and everyone is happy.

It reminds me of the rules of the road: there are all these laws that dictate who has the right-of-way, how fast you can go, and everything else, but a lot of people (especially, it seems, in Louisiana) try to be polite or kind by bucking the expectations and allowing people to turn left, say, in front of them, but that’s not nice. Because what ends up happening is that the person turning feels pressure to turn in a possibly-dangerous situation, the people behind the nice person have to suddenly stop on a thoroughfare, and the laws of traffic are generally ignored. It’s really frustrating.

Expectations, I guess I’m trying to say, are important and good.

Piers Cawley, Running a bakery on Emacs and PostgreSQL

Once you start to see your computing environment as truly soft and malleable, you can do amazing things, assisted by a computer that is truly yours.

While I found the technical walk-through of Piers’s system interesting, I didn’t really get a lot of it (since I don’t know SQL or use Emacs), but this last bit really stood out. It makes me want to do more to make it easier to blog, so I can do it every day, almost without thinking. I can just open up, say, acdw and begin writing.