Archive for November, 2016

Deep fried camembert

Sunday, November 20th, 2016 | Food

camembert-1

This is a recipe from Le Cordon Bleu’s Complete Cooking Techniques. You slice the cheese, crumb it and put it in the fridge until it has regained its structure. Finally, you deep fry it.

camembert-2

Trust Me

Saturday, November 19th, 2016 | Religion & Politics

trust-and-fear

In a recent episode of Freakonomics Radio, entitled “Trust Me“, Stephen Dubner looked at the decline in trust that many countries were experiencing. This was specifically measured by asking people “do you think most people can be trusted?”

Building this up is important because the most trust you can build, the more social capital people have. This is important because countries where people have higher social capital do better, and also on a personal level as people who have more social capital live significantly longer. As Susan Pinker teaches us it is one of the biggest factors in life expectancy.

Some countries have very high trust levels. Sweden for example. Some of this is explained by the welfare state, but perhaps the biggest factor is the homogeneity of Swedish society. That is to say, everyone looks the same. People trust people who look similar to them. Conversely, when researchers looked at what makes people cheat, cheating across racial lines was a major factor.

One option then would be to resist the diversification of society, join the BNP and insist Britain is just for white people. But aside from the fact that many of us would detest such an attitude, it also ends badly: countries with a lack of diversity are less creative.

Therefore, we need to find a way that we can continue to build trust and social capital in a world that is becoming increasingly more diverse.

How do we do this? By finding ways to connect people across different communities: military service, university, sports teams, etc. University is a great example. You are thrown into a hall of residence where you meet a diverse group of people and build relationships with them. You then internalise the skill of trusting and it stays with you for the rest of your life. This is reflected in the fact that graduates have more social capital than non-graduates.

University is not the only place you can build such trust of course. If you are in the UK, you may have seen adverts for the National Citizen Service. The NCS was introduced in 2011 as a way to get young people to build these skills.

It is also worth noting that these barriers break down over time. There was a time when an Italian person and an Irish person was a “mixed marriage”. Then a black person and and a white person was a “mixed marriage”. Now it is just a marriage. Where possible, it makes sense to speed this process up.

Want to become an IT contractor?

Friday, November 18th, 2016 | News, Tech

itmc-box If you work in IT, and have considered making the leap from permanent employee to contractor, you are not alone. Many people want to make the transition because they want to…

  • Earn more money
  • Be able to take more time off
  • Be their own boss

The problem is that having a permanent job is easy: you just turn up five days a week and people give you money. Finding the motivation to research contracting is a tough ask, especially when there are so many minefields and potential trip hazards to avoid.

it’s a shame, because being a contractor is awesome. I get this immense feeling of freedom knowing that the only person I am truly working for: is me. I like running my little contracting company, I like being able to provide for Elina and Venla, and I like the fact that when I get bored of a contract I just terminate it and move on.

So, to help anyone else who feels the same way but needs some help making the switch, I am launching the IT Contracting Master Class. A course that takes you step-by-step through setting yourself up as a contractor and continues all the way through to what to do once you find your first contract and start working for yourself.

I have been there and done it all already, so I can save you the heavy lifting. The instructions are specific: I tell you exactly what to do and where to go. None of this “well, you could do A, B, or C”. I will give you the options, but then tell you exactly which one is the right answer and why.

Sound good?

You are probably wondering how much I am charging for such a course. That is the best bit: it is free! You can sign up for zero cost and get access to the first batch of lessons, and to my eBook First Steps in IT Contracting. If you like what you see, you can upgrade to the full course at a later date.

itmc-get-started

Register now for immediate access or visit the website to learn more.

Sauces

Thursday, November 17th, 2016 | Food

In the Worfolk household, we have themed months. I work through cookbooks fairly sequentially, and it takes me about a month to get through one, so each month ends to have a theme. For the past two months, that theme has been sauces.

I have been working with Michel Roux’s Sauces. I think it might be my new favourite cookbook. It has so many great recipes in there. It feels different to a regular cookbook and in some ways it makes things easier: if you have a great sauce you can literally just fry some chicken and serve it as is with the sauce.

The book is not without criticism. The recipes use so much veal stock. I don’t think I have ever seen veal for sale in UK supermarkets. Other ingredients are unavailable too. So far though, they have all been easy to substitute.

bread-sauce-wine-mustard

Bread sauce, mustard and white wine sauce.

parsley-nage

Parsley nage with lemon grass.

bearnaise-sauce

Bearnaise sauce.

juniper-sauce

Juniper sauce.

curried-mussels

Curried mussels.

sea-bass-shrimp-sauce

Sea bass and shrimp sauce.

michel-roux-sauces

Like my blog, but too busy to check it?

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 | News

A lot of people tell me they enjoy reading my blog – but they are too busy to check it. That makes sense. We are all busy people. The stuff I post here might be fun to read, but it is not going to give you any essential skills or form part of your work life. Therefore, it seems very unlikely you will wake up every morning thinking “I must check Chris’s blog today”.

Unless you are my wife. And statistically most of you are not.

But never fear, I have come up with a solution. I now have a weekly newsletter that sends you all of the content from the previous week. Each Monday an email will go out with a list of all the posts in the last 7 days. If any take your fancy, you can click through to read the full post.

Here is what it looks like:

weekly-newsletter

To sign up for it, use the sign up form at the bottom of every post. If you are on the homepage, just click through to an individual post to find it (it is below the comments section). Here is what the sign up form looks like:

newsletter-signup

Obviously this is my personal blog, so there is 100% no spam. We don’t do that kind of thing in Yorkshire. It is run via MailChimp, so you can unsubscribe at any time.

On a side note, I have moved the comments section up the page to make it easier to find. You will now find it directly below the related posts section.

We need to talk about Smart Decisions

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016 | Thoughts

doors

When playing poker, there is a term called a bad beat. This is where you do the right thing, and lose anyway. That is poker, there is always an element of chance to it.

For example, the flop comes down and would you look at that, you have hit an ace-high flush. There is nothing else on the board: you know you are holding the best hand here by far. So you bet big. Your opponent keeps calling you.

The turn arrives. It’s a deuce. That is going to do nothing or them. So you continue to bet, but he calls you again. Finally the river: another deuce. Your opponent must be bluffing you think to yourself as you shove all your chips into the middle of the table. They call you, and turn over a pair of twos. Four of a kind beats your flush, and you go home empty handed.

What did our poker player do incorrectly? Nothing! The odds of something being a) stupid enough to call you when there is a good chance you have a flush and all they have is a pair of twos and b) being lucky enough to hit the exact two cards they need in a row are incredibly small. It is a bad beat because you deserve to win the hand.

So what do you do about it?

Nothing. You keep playing how you are playing. Why? Because statistically you are going to win more than you are going to lose. Poker is a game of chance, so if you can tip the odds in your favour it does not matter that sometimes you will take a bad beat. In the long run, you will come out on top if you keep making the right decisions.

What about when I am not playing poker?

It occurs to me that the same thing happens all the time in real life. Often, we can do the right thing, and still get punished for it. It is a bad beat in life. But the same rules of poker still apply to everyday life as well. If we keep making the correct decision, statistically we are going to come out on top.

You are not always going to win at life each day. However, if you can tip the odds in your favour consistently, you can win at life in the long term.

Give me several examples

Once of the best comes from Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. He talks about product warranties. These are profit-making schemes for the companies: they would not offer them if they did not generate money for them.

However, people tend to take them out because they think it is better to insure the risk, or that they will be upset if they have to shell out for a replacement. This may be true, but what is most profitable overall? Sure, if you just have one product warranty, that you turn down, and your electrical item breaks, you are out of pocket.

But each one of us is going to buy hundreds, maybe even thousands, of electrical items over the course of our lives. If we take out extended warranties on all of them, over the long term we are going to be significantly more out of pocket than we would be if we just stumped up to fix a broken product every once in a while.

Example two: automating and passing on a task. If you have a repetitive task that drains your time in short buy annoying chunks you could automate it with a computer, or you could train someone else to do it. Both of these options come with a high setup cost (it takes time to write the computer programme or train the other person) but reduce the amount of time you have to spend on the problem in the long term.

Example three: investing in yourself. How often do you go on training courses that you pay for out of your own pocket? If you are like me, not enough. Yet what if that training course would lead to higher earnings in the long term? Or more time? Or the ability to acquire a much-desired skill? Often this is the case.

How do we apply this to real life?

Winning in the real world requires some luck. However, we can tip that luck in our favour by making sure the decisions we make are Smart Decisions. We will not always win, but by tipping the odds in our favour, we can come out on top on the long term.

How do we do this?

  • Consider the overall implications of your decision, not just the short term
  • Challenge yourself to resist automatically taking the path of least resistance
  • Understand that we have psychological biases to taking the easy route, even though it may not be in our own interest
  • When you take a bad beat, recognise it as a bad beat, and not a bad decision

Follow these principles and I guarantee you will will die a richer, happier, more satisfied person. If not, email me after that time for a full refund.

30th birthday

Monday, November 14th, 2016 | Life

miller-and-carter-platter

Given that Venla was due to arrive a few weeks before, I knew my 30th birthday was probably going to be a busy one. We started by going to register Venla so she could be a real human being, officially.

For lunch, we dropped by Miller & Carter. They have a starter platter containing fish, chicken and duck, then we had steak, with a bacon and honey mustard salad. I think that makes five animals. Finally we finished off with my parents for dinner and seeing family. Not a bad way to spend a day.

Prawn cook-off challenge

Sunday, November 13th, 2016 | Food

prawn-cook-off-1

Can you tell the difference between fresh and frozen prawns? That was the best we put ourselves to. Two sets of raw king prawns, one which I put in the freezer for a month and then defrosted, and one that was fresh.

prawn-pans

Two identical frying pans, to cook each set of prawns in a mixture of oil and butter. They were otherwise unseasoned.

prawns-cooking

Finally they were served up on identical plates. Elina did not know which was which, but obviously I did.

prawn-cook-off-2

Could we tell the difference? Yes: but it is not clear which is best! The fresh prawns had more of a meaty texture, but the defrosted prawns actually had more of a prawn flavour.

Pineapple salsa

Saturday, November 12th, 2016 | Food

pineapple-salsa

This is a great salsa for Elina as it is onion-free and full of pineapple (surprisingly). It goes superbly with pork, and simple to make: chop up a chilli, lime and coriander and mix it all together.

I also tried Michel Roux’s tropical salsa. It is similar, but uses kiwi fruit and mango as well. This makes it quite watery, especially with the other ingredients, so not quite as good as the pineapple.

Victoria Gate

Friday, November 11th, 2016 | Reviews

victoria-gate

What a massive fucking disappointment.

I thought it was going to be really big. But it isn’t. Nor does it have any shops you would ever go in. At least Victoria Quarter has nice things to look at. The shops here are both unjustifiably posh, and yet still boring.

It does have a John Lewis, but what a poorly designed store that is. There are no stairs. How do you build a department store and forget about the stairs? This led to delays in the escalators to the point where they had to have a staff member on one each managing the queue. Meanwhile Elina got stuck in the lift because they were so crammed.