Monthly Archives: December 2018

crumpets

I decided to make crumpets. Some friends were talking about them and, despite never having seen a crumpet in-person before, I became overwhelmed by the desire to make some. I made a batch that seemed pretty good, so I decided to make another using sourdough. (Note: I did not naturally leaven the dough. I used yeast.)

I based my attempt on this recipe. It worked out okay.

To make crumpets you need crumpet rings. For some reason we have one.

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sourdough starter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Mix the warm milk, sugar, and yeast. Let it hang out with itself until it gets all bubbly. Yum. Do this in one container.
  2. Mix the flour and salt. Do this in a big enough bowl.
  3. Add the milk/sugar/yeast mixture to the flour and mix it up. It will get nice and doughy.
  4. Add the sourdough to the doughy mixture.
  5. Set the dough aside somewhere not as cold as most of my apartment and let it rise to twice it’s size. This takes me about an hour.
  6. After the dough has risen, mix the water and the baking soda and then add it to the dough.
  7. Let your batter like dough sit around for another half hour. It will look something like this:

    A glass bowl full of crumpet batter.
    Your batter should be getting some nice bubbles in it.
  8. COOK THE CRUMPETS! This is how I cooked them. It was probably not the best way to do it. The internet suggests using a griddle; I have two cast iron pans. Since I only have one crumpet ring, using a single (small) cast iron worked fine.
    • Put some butter or oil into the pan. Also spread some butter or oil around the inside of the crumpet ring.
    • Put the crumpet ring into the pan.
    • Add some batter inside the crumpet ring. I used 1/3 cup batter for each crumpet. They were probably way too thick.
    • Cook for a while on one side and then turn it once the first side is a pretty golden color. The internet tells me not to flip crumpets, but I needed to because they were (probably) too thick.
  9. EAT THE CRUMPETS. They’re most delicious fresh.

A stack of crumpets on a white and blue ceramic plate, in a room with blue walls.

User freedom (n.)

I talk a lot about user freedom, but have never explained what that actually means. The more I think about user freedom as a term, the less certain I am about what it is. This makes it hard to define. My thoughts on user freedom are the synthesis of about ten years, first thinking about the Good behind developmental models enabled by open source through to today, where I think about the philosophical implications of traffic lights.

I think I picked up the term from Christopher Lemmer Webber and it’s become integral to how I think and talk about free software and it’s value to society.

User freedom is based in the idea that we have fundamental rights (I’ll use the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights as my metric*) and that these extend to the digital spaces we inhabit. In order to protect these in a world ruled by software, in order to see them in practice, we need the opportunity (and freedom) to use, examine, modify, and share this software. Software freedom is what happens when our software affords us these freedoms. Free and open source software is the software embodying the spirit of software freedom.

Software freedom is also necessary to ensure our rights in the physical world. Let’s take Article 10 as an example.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

There is so much thoroughly opaque proprietary software in and around legal matters. This includes software people are choosing to use, like Case Management Software; software is used to gather and manage data and evidence being used against someone and sometimes this evidence isn’t even accessible to those being charged unless they pay licensing and access fees; breathalyzers are little more than small computers that have been subject to tampering since 1988; in Patent 10049419 “Motorola patents a robocop autonomous car that breathalyzes, mirandizes you, calls your lawyer and collects your bail”; and facial recognition technology is available and being used and tested by governments.

The right to a fair and public hearing also extends to digital spaces, your actions there, and your digital life. Your digital activities are monitored, cataloged, and treated with equal judgment as those in physical spaces.

User freedom is important to different people for different reasons. For me, the most important reason ties into the freedom to study software. I think user consent — consent to interacting with technology. Unless software is free, unless we can study it, we cannot understand it, and when we cannot understand something we don’t fully have the autonomy to consent.**

I said a lot of words, but failed to provide a concise definition to user freedom largely because I lack a concise definition. User freedom is the freedom we need to protect, for which we use software freedom and free software, though it extends far beyond those two critical components. User freedom is itself a tool used to uphold and defend human rights when applied to computing technologies. User freedom creates the possibility for knowledge, which gives us autonomy and consent.

* This idea is shared with Chris Webber.
** I’d like to attribute my ideas around autonomy and consent to Dr. Holly Andersen.

Chocolate chunk (low-ish carb) cookies

I’ve been getting into making up (baking) recipes, mostly to see if they work. I want to make a delicious, low-ish carb cookie, and this is my result:

  • 1 stick butter (softened)
  • 1 cup (fake) sugar (I use swerve)
    • You could do this without a sugar replacement, or with honey. I think you could also use coconut flakes to bring in some sweetness.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • Some amount of chocolate things (I used cacao nibs)

Now, onto how you make them:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Cream the butter and the sugar. This means take a fork (or your hands) and smash the butter and sugar together until it’s a generally consistent mess
  • Add the eggs and vanilla and do the same thing you did above. Eggy, buttery, sugary mess. Yum.
  • Add all the dry ingredients (almond meal, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon) at once, then mix that it. You might want to switch from a fork or your hands to a spoon at this point. But you might not! Go crazy!
  • Add the chocolate things to whatever amount you like.
    • You could add other things here too: freeze dried fruit, dried coconut, sprinkles, nuts, or whatever your little heart desires as long as it’s dry enough.
  • Butter your cookie sheet.
  • Put your cookies on the cookie sheet. I used a rounded tablespoon, so probably about 2 tbsps per cookie.
  • Bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

This is where I say the thing: these are the best gluten free cookies I’ve had. These are the greatest so called low-carb(ish) cookies I’ve had. I can’t get over how delicious these cookies are.

 

The OSD and user freedom

Some background reading

The relationship between open source and free software is fraught with people arguing about meanings and value. In spite of all the things we’ve built up around open source and free software, they reduce down to both being about software freedom.

Open source is about software freedom. It has been the case since “open source” was created.

In 1986 the Four Freedoms of Free Software (4Fs) were written. In 1998 Netscape set its source code free. Later that year a group of people got together and Christine Peterson suggested that, to avoid ambiguity, there was a “need for a better name” than free software. She suggested open source after open source intelligence. The name stuck and 20 years later we argue about whether software freedom matters to open source, because too many global users of the term have forgotten (or never knew) that some people just wanted another way to say software that ensures the 4Fs.

Once there was a term, the term needed a formal definition: how to we describe what open source is? That’s where the Open Source Definition (OSD) comes in.

The OSD is a set of ten points that describe what an open source license looks like. The OSD came from the Debian Free Software Guidelines. The DFSG themselves were created to “determine if a work is free” and ought to be considered a way of describing the 4Fs.

Back to the present

I believe that the OSD is about user freedom. This is an abstraction from “open source is about free software.” As I eluded to earlier, this is an intuition I have, a thing I believe, and an argument I’m have a very hard time trying to make.

I think of free software as software that exhibits or embodies software freedom — it’s software created using licenses that ensure the things attached to them protect the 4Fs. This is all a tool, a useful tool, for protecting user freedom.

The line that connects the OSD and user freedom is not a short one: the OSD defines open source -> open source is about software freedom -> software freedom is a tool to protect user freedom. I think this is, however, a very valuable reduction we can make. The OSD is another tool in our tool box when we’re trying to protect the freedom of users of computers and computing technology.

Why does this matter (now)?

I would argue that this has always mattered, and we’ve done a bad job of talking about it. I want to talk about this now because its become increasingly clear that people simply never understood (or even heard of) the connection between user freedom and open source.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, and I think it’s important context for everything else I say and write about in relation to the philosophy behind free and open source software (FOSS).

FOSS is a tool. It’s not a tool about developmental models or corporate enablement — though some people and projects have benefited from the kinds of development made possible through sharing source code, and some companies have created very financially successful models based on it as well. In both historical and contemporary contexts, software freedom is at the heart of open source. It’s not about corporate benefit, it’s not about money, and it’s not even really about development. Methods of development are tools being used to protect software freedom, which in turn is a tool to protect user freedom. User freedom, and what we get from that, is what’s valuable.

Side note

At some future point, I’ll address why user freedom matters, but in the mean time, here are some talks I gave (with Karen Sandler) on the topic.

Gym noise

I like to listen to talks while I’m running or at the gym. Here are a few recent ones:

https://media.libreplanet.org/u/libreplanet/m/free-software-forever-with-slides/

Free software forever, starring Deb Nicholson. This talk inspired a lot of people, myself included.

https://media.libreplanet.org/u/libreplanet/m/a-usability-study-of-the-gpl

A usability study of the GPL, starring Brett Smith. This also had a number of good responses. The description takes a stance against license proliferation, which I approve of.

Four ways of spreading the four freedoms, starring VM Brasseur. I’m cheating a bit, I watched this waiting in line for brunch one day.