January 19th, 2014

Mailchimp on MagicBands

I saw it at gigaom:


It's got a few different aspects to it than the usual, so if you're interested in Disney/smart watch/payment systems/RFID/wtf, maybe you'll find something amusing.

Inevitably, I'm here to critique.

First: one of the most annoying things that I hear people say -- people who I otherwise love, respect, and admire, and people whose parenting style I aspire to someday meet, never mind exceed -- is that they never want to go (back) to Disney. Often, they say they never will, then they have kids and the kids wear them down and etc.

Now, to be clear, I _get_ that Disney as a company and as cultural artifacts is sexist, racist, heterocentric, overly normative in general, doesn't treat its employees well, has co-opted the few unions that ever made inroads and blah, blah, bleeping, blah. They distort local and regional governance and probably should be excised from the planet as a form of cancer. I don't disagree. In the course of attempting to understand how I could so enjoy Disney in the face of all this, I discovered an academic niche known as "Disney Studies", and I've read a scary number of texts within that niche. I liked a lot of them.

But pretty much what it comes down to is that Disney made me smile a lot when I was a deeply unhappy child and it made me keep smiling as a deeply unhappy young adult and it's is still making me smile as a middle aged, often, but not always, happy mother of two special needs children. Part of the smiling is The Rides, which are fun, and stimulating in more than just the spin you around sense, and not so overwhelming they make me puke. Part of the smiling is that Disney has, for decades, let me enjoy a vacation including eating out without drastically limiting the food I can order at restaurants because of my food allergies.

Part of the smiling is that Disney is a reliably good time (if you time your visit correctly), even if you are on the spectrum (subject to some caveats regarding just what your sensory issues are -- if you are chronically overstimulated, not for you!).

There is very little on the planet that can do all of these things. Possibly nothing, but I'm open to suggestions.

Second: as annoying as I find people who swear up and down that they hate Disney and they are never going (back), I actually find it marginally more annoying when they discover the thing which honestly, how oblivious do you have to be to fail to notice this: kids like Disney.

Not all kids like Disney. And if the kids don't like it and the parents don't like it then Hallelujah and Stay the Fuck Out of the Mouse's Land and leave the space for those of us who do.

Anyway. John Foreman over at MailChimp is one of the garden variety silly people who swore off Disney and then took the kiddies to see Buzz Lightyear. So that is not a positive start to the article. He concludes by noting that while we complain about NSA and our data, we happily give our data away (way more than the NSA can get) for things like LinkedIn on our phone. A valid point, but while he seems a little distressed by it, of course my sister and I spent a bunch of time on FB a while back saying we just wanted the NSA to provide backups when our computers crashed and assorted other minor data support services in exchange for spying on us (you know -- maintain the grocery list, type of thing). Also, I feel like any organization dumb enough to collect millions of tweets a day deserves whatever they get. I hope they enjoy every last one of them.

John Foreman, like most of the people commenting on the massive IT upgrade at Disney, failed to notice the really big impact of MagicBands. It is the payment system Holy Grail of being fully and constantly transparent, while being less difficult to use than any other payment system ever invented (<-- not strictly speaking true). You just wave your wrist and the popcorn is now Yours. Also the pencil case, the flip flops, the flashing pink sequined Minnie Mouse ears (both pairs, because my son wanted one, too), a bunch of t-shirts, countless plastic and vinyl figures, a pen ...

When we used MagicBands in November, it had such a massive impact on me, that I started shopping for Smart Watches, and was devastated to discover _no one_ had an integrated payment system of any sort -- not even the Dunkin Donuts app or the Starbucks app. I was _crushed_. And post CES 2014, I am sad to say that that does not appear to have changed. If a Smart Watch with a Secure Element existed that required me to give up or deprecate all of my Apple equipment and switch to Android, I would probably have placed my order before I finished reading the description of the product.

But, you know, people are obsessed with privacy. If I were obsessed with privacy, I probably wouldn't maintain a blog.

Attempting to paperless my recipes/cookbooks

I've been poking at this project for a while. I am not optimistic. Gadget blogs have a variety of Bright Young Things (men and women) who have made efforts using different programs, apps, Evernote, scanners, etc., and their descriptions Do Not Inspire Me.

Over a decade ago, I put my cookbook online -- it has been up continuously since 2002 or thereabouts (part of it was up earlier, but then Died a Horrible, Unsupported Death, only to recovered some time later through the Wayback Machine). I've gone through various waves of bring-it-up-to-date-with-current-fave-recipes, but I've also simultaneously maintained a stash of recipes I haven't tried yet but Someday Mean To. More recently, I've been taking pictures of things I cook regularly and adding the pictures to the cookbook. Most recently, I've been taking pictures of the source cookbooks (so, Beth Kidder's cookbook for Crumb Cake, Jane Zukin for Chocolate Cake, etc.) to attach to my version of the recipe, which can get pretty distant, especially baked goodies where I've swapped to other grain flours, replaced fats with oils, removed salt and reduced sodium, and sometimes wildly changed the technique. It's nice to have the source, because sometimes I want to reverse course and go back to an earlier version; I'll keep the books around forever if I can't be sure of my ability to return (altho it's nice to see there's a kindle version of Kidder!).

The good news is that I typically cook using that online cookbook now, using my iPad (or an iPad, at any rate).

So here's my question: why do people sell iPad shields? iPads clean up beautifully. What the hell kind of accidents are people having in the kitchen that they need an iPad shield for? All the gadget-y bloggers who are putting their recipes online mention them.

The Recipe Binder Project: Tracking a Wild Recipe to Its Den

I have this crappy red plastic 3 ring binder full of page protectors, in turn full of random recipes accumulated over our lives. I've decided to treat this as a Project. Just like I collected scattered pictures and frames, got some on the walls and most of the rest into binders, I'm going to sort through this paper detritus and turn it into a binder that you can actually _find_ recipes in, and also get the Good Ones up on my online cookbook.

First things first: throw out recipes for dishes that I would refuse to eat. There were a bunch of ham recipes (my first husband and one of my long-term boyfriends loved ham; I never did. R. is indifferent, altho he thinks hambones have their uses, notably for split pea soup) that went straight into the recycle bin. There were recipes that when read carefully in middle age were clearly Ridiculous (why I didn't see that in my 20s and 30s is beyond me). And there were recipes that I had another recipe for the same thing that I really liked and had no desire to tweak further (banana bread).

Then I extracted a recipe I am actually excited about, one from my childhood.


As I read it, I thought, there is No Way there is anything about that recipe that is authentic, except perhaps the bake it in a covered metal pot part. In particular, the cut out a piece of foil thing smelled to high heaven of 60s and 70s era magazine recipes. So bring on the google; let us track this recipe to its birthplace.

Which turned out to be insanely easy. I checked out a few pages, most of which just repeated the Lore (typical). _This_ one, however, sourced it.


The history of recipes is a lot like bad etymology: everyone (hey, I do it too!) feels compelled to tell you stories about how they started cooking this recipe and family tradition, but the cold hard truth is all these things came out of magazines. The good news is, this blogger actually asked mom-in-law, and mom-in-law passed along the magazine clipping. A Sunset! From the mid 1970s. Totes believable.

"When I asked my mother-in-law for this family recipe, she included a 1976 article from Sunset magazine where I learned about its history."

"The recipe my mother-in-law used was one that was supplied to Sunset magazine by Anita Mitchell. Anita won the bread-baking championship at the National Basque Festival in 1975."

Unlike Young People making this 1970s era (when people thought having 4 kids was a normal thing to do back then, and everyone who knew any Catholics at all knew at least one family with more than 8 kids in it) recipe in 2014, I understand that 9 1/2 cups of all purpose flour is a Lot of Bread. And I also understand that the important component of the technique is the cook it in a pot part.

So I'm now sitting over here thinking about a stainless steel pot I have that I could make a Wee Basque Loaf in, and contemplating how long to expect the much, much smaller loaf to cook in that smaller vessel.

It's sure funny seeing a bunch of recipes mention "salad oil", a staple of magazine recipes of the time, but never referred to as such any more (it would be vegetable oil, and that's assuming it isn't specified further).