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    • I think for right now, we’re all wanting to share as much information as possible with each other to stay informed on the virus. And you can see this on Cake: every day there are new discussions started on different areas of concern or interest.

      Kudos to all of the conversation starters during the past couple weeks 👏👏👏: @rtwPaul @slamdunk406 @Vilen @Glenn_Smith @Apocryphal @Factotum @JazliAziz @Pathfinder and others. And of course massive 🙌 to @Eddieb for starting the mega thread discussion back in January that’s still going strong.

      At the same time, it feels like the virus has pretty much taken over the news cycle, entertainment news, technology news, etc. Either non-virus discussions are being ignored or there’s nothing to talk about: How was the game last night? What game?!

      Interestingly, I’ve noticed more people of late commenting on older conversations from before the pandemic.

      If you’re not seeing them, it’s because you need to set your timeline filter to Active. Don’t know how to change it? Then read this.

      So since people are starting to search for more of these conversations from the archives, I’m going to start sharing some interesting conversations I’ve found from the BP era (Before Pandemic). But instead of just sharing the curated content, I plan to invite to the panel either the conversation starter or one of the commenters and ask a follow up question.

      Someone was going to buy/do/see something? Did they end up buying/doing/seeing it and what was their reaction/experience?

      I’ll try to do a new conversation every day. This will probably crash and burn 🔥 massively, but who knows?—maybe it will be interesting.

    • What do you do if you’re now working from home and you’re WiFi is full of dead zones?

      Back in October, @Vilen asked this question to the community and got some great insights from experts, including Cake users @wgoodey, @Shewmaker, @Fool and @kevin.

      I find myself in a similar predicament and am now curious as to what Vilen ended up with and how it performed.

      @Vilen, can you share an update?


    • Always impressed by prolific fiction readers such as @Apocryphal and @Pathfinder. What they read in a month is sometimes more than what I read all year (sad but true).

      I came across in the archives a review from Pathfinder of a Raymond Chandler novel, and spotted this comment:

      I always love it when I find a new author that I can explore. I will have to persue some more of Chandler's work.

      So @Pathfinder, have you read any more of Chandler’s works since then?

    • There are quite a few foodies on Cake. @wgoodey is quite knowledgeable on all things Japan and shared about a year ago these interesting insights on soy sauce.

      Soy sauce isn't very frequently used on its own. It's usually mixed in with other ingredients to make sauces or to flavor dashi, the traditional broth base. Mix soy sauce and vinegar with some chili oil to make a gyoza dipping sauce. Mix it with mirin and some sugar to make teriyaki sauce.

      Super Sushi Ramen Express, by Michael Booth, is an interesting read for anyone interested in Japanese cuisine - or just cuisine in general. He cited Kamebishi as the only company still using the mushiro method, which I think is the original way to produce soy sauce. Their whole process takes a minimum of five years. He says it's the world's best. It's on my list of things to try. They are also the only company to make an aged soy sauce, which was inspired by the balsamic vinegar producers in Italy. Apparently a 10-year aged bottle costs about $150.

      What are some new dishes or cooking insights you can share on Japane cuisine, @wgoodey?


    • No, that has slipped off my radar. I have read several books that I did enjoy, but not more by Chandler. I need to explore that direction again.

      These days I tend to think in terms of authors, instead of just "books" as I frequently find that an author with one really good book often has many others.

      Liike Tony Horwitz, mostly known for his book about Civil War Re-Enactors "Confederates in the Attic".

      But he has written many others that I enjoy - I am currently rereading "Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide" written as the author, Horwitz, follows the route taken by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1850's as he wandered through the southern states trying to understand how the citizens of the South lived with slavery. Horwitz is an bright observer with a wicked wit. Olmsted was a more serious observor who travelled in conditions folks would not endure today - He wrote several books in the 1850s about his southern travels, afraid that war was coming. He was right, of course.

      Another one of Horwitz's I enjoyed was "One for the Road: Hitchhiking through the Australian Outback" written back in 1988 - which I found falling on the ground laughing funny. It MIGHT have insulted some Australian citizens a modest bit.... His wife is an Ozzie, a newspaper editor

      "Blue Latitudes" Following in the steps of Captain Cook as he wanders across the Pacific publihed in 2002.

      Mr Horwitz has a biting humor at times, so beware if one is easliy offended, but I find his writing fluid, informative, and at times, ROFLMAO funny. Not a bad combinations in these hard times we presently live in.

      Another author I came across is David Roberts, that I discovered fifteen years ago when I was wandering in the American southwest chasing petroglyphs, pictographs, and prehistoric Native American ruins - once called Anaszi. David Roberts' book that grabbed me was "Sandstone Spine: Seeking the Anasazi on the First Traverse of the Comb Ridge". Comb Ridge is a spine of rocks about 500-1200 feet high that is about 120 miles long.

      I began to explore other books of his, and found a literal bounty - he had been writing about travelleing and climbing mountains for many years. He has almost a dozen first ascents in Alaska. He has stared deeply into the the risks of dying while climbing, and openly writes about two of his climbing partners who did not return from their expeditions with him - the first episode when he was only 16 years of age. Mr Roberts is now dealing with facing his own imminent demise due to squamous cancer of the head and neck. An amazing writer - I have read over a dozen of his books and I can only hope to face death as calmly and serenely as he seems to be doing.

      David Roberts' "Four Against the Artic; Shipwrecked at the Top of the World" describes the plight of several Russian hunters abandoned in the ice near Svalbard ( Spitzbergen )_ who survived the arctic climate of Svalbard for six years and three months before being rescued - a story so amazing to the Russian press and people, that the survivors were presented at court to the Czar in 1749.

      This story was completely unknown to the western press. Mr Roberts found historical verification in 250 year old French and German books in the Harvard libraries. Mr Roberts' long experience in climbing mountains gave him an ability to truly appreciate the incredible story he was finding, that most academicians had not really appreciated. Much of his book then becomes a story of Mr Roberts travelling to Russia to find the original source material, and then deciding to spend a month on Svalbard, living among the polar bears, to better appreciate what the Russian hunters experienced back in 1743. A truly fantastic story - I need to read it again.

      Polar bears are so common on Svalbard, they warn you upon leaving the airport at Longyearbyen

      One is told that to leave town one MUST be armed, because of the risk of polar bears. This is in a Norwegian Protectorate

      Roberts' book was what ultimately made me decide to travel with Muench Workshops to Svalbard in the summer of 2016. I did not truly realize how popular Svalbard was to European tourists - it is the largest wilderness relatively near Europe. Only 4-5 hours by passenger jet north of Oslo, Norway - a mere 1271 mles.

      I have a few images in my gallery here -

      I will put Chandler's "Farewell My Lovely" on my reading list, after I finish "Spying on the South"


      Edit. I am enjoying the first chapters in "Farewell My Lovely"

    • After consulting with @kevin about the best options for improving my Wi-Fi signal, he recommended upgrading my wireless router first. I live in a single-story, 1100 sq. ft. house. Most of my connected devices are within a 400 sq ft area in the center of the house, right where the router is. So I only needed a much stronger signal from the router to solve the poor signal issue.

      But before I arrived at this solution, I went out and bought Google Nest Wi-Fi mesh system with 3 access points. It sat on the floor in the office, unopened for almost two weeks before I decided to return it. I felt like it was an expensive overkill for my existing problem.

      The final solution at half the price was an upgraded Wi-Fi router and an upgraded modem. Netgear Nighthawk AC3600 Tri-Band Wi-Fi router has six antennae, designed for very large houses. I paired it with a Netgear router, hoping they'll talk to each other nicely.

      I've had this setup for a few months without any issues. I mostly care about internet speed and get about 300-350 Mbps in the office by the router. At the farthest point in my back yard, I still get 80-120 Mbps. That is all I really need for now.

    • Wow, I found all of your book suggestions to be amazing, especially the one about six years surviving while trapped on the ice. Many page turners there and your descriptions had me intrigued to read them. And I’m glad that I’ve given you the nudge to explore more of Raymond Chandler!

      (I think I need to restart my subscription to the New York Review of Books because that was the quality level of non-fiction works reviewed.)

    • What if you’re not a big reader of books but want to be?

      Community member @JazliAziz attempted to accomplish this with the goal of reading one book a month for an entire year.

      Would you be willing to give us an update on the books you’ve been reading since this conversation, @JazliAziz?

    • People are often intimidated by Japanese food. But the majority of Japanese cuisine is actually quite simple. Here's a couple dishes to get started with:

      Salt-cured Salmon

      Rub 2 tablespoons of salt all over 1 pound of skin-on salmon and wrap it up in plastic wrap. Keep it in the fridge with something that weighs a couple pounds on top of it for 24-48 hours. Unwrap the salmon, wipe the salt off, and pat dry with a paper towel. At this point it's ready to cook. Pan-fry it, grill it, or roast it in the oven for 8-10 minutes at 450°F (230°C).

      I like to serve it on top of rice. Or you can flake it up and use it in...


      Cook 2 cups of short-grain rice. When that's finished, mix in some rice vinegar. I don't measure, but I would say a tablespoon or two, depending on how much of the vinegar flavor you want. You can leave this out, but I think it the acidity helps the overall flavor. Let the rice cool until it's not too hot to handle it. You can spread it out on some parchment paper to cool it faster.

      While the rice is cooking prepare your flavorings. I usually do canned tuna mixed with Japanese mayonnaise, sesame oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and shichimi. Or basically the same thing with flaked imitation crab. When I made it a couple days ago I also put in shelled edamame. I've also made it with taco meat. Do whatever you want, but make sure it's something similar in texture to those - small and crumbly or spreadable but won't be absorbed by the rice - something like sofritas from Chipotle would be good.

      Then you put it all together. Form a ball of rice with some of the filling in the middle. Usually it's shaped into triangles. You can buy molds or you can do it by hand. If you do it by hand keep a little bowl of water nearby to moisten your hands or rub a little oil on them before you start. That helps to keep the rice from sticking to your hands too much. I prefer to go the easy way and just mix the flavorings and the rice together before forming the balls, rather than trying to keep the filling in the middle. You also get a more consistent flavor throughout, if you don't really like plain white rice.

      It's usually eaten with nori (roasted seaweed) but you can skip that if you don't like the flavor.

    • OMG, I think me, @Victoria and @ShootTokyo were all drooling as we read this.

      Leaving the salmon in salt for 24/48 hours. You know, I’ve tried doing a salt brine with chicken and didn’t care for how it dried it out. But there’s a ton more moisture in salmon so I could see this as an interesting taste variation to my normal prep. We had salmon for dinner tonight so it may be a few days before I try this. Excited to share my results!

      I’ve never worked with shichimi before, but I’ve used lime juice or lime zest with some salmon dishes so the orange peel in the ingredients list sounds fabulous. Question. I often heat up my spices in oil to “wake them.” Is that recommended/necessary when cooking with shichimi?

    • Ever want to learn another language?

      @slamdunk406 decided to learn Chinese and shared his experiences after 18 months of study.

      Ben, are you still studying Chinese or did you hit a wall in your studies and decided to take a break?

    • It’s been a little over a year since my interview with @amacbean16 on homeschooling. And now many parents are having to take on the role of teacher while schools are closed.

      @amacbean16, what’s new on the math education front a year later? Is your mathlete still studying the Art of Problem Solving courses for gifted kids?

      And how have you had to change your learning curriculum since returning from Costa Rica?


    • I've never heard of anyone doing that with shichimi. It's generally used as a condiment. But there aren't really any rules in cooking, so if you try it and it works for you, then cool.

      The Japanese don't cook with lots of spices. There's a greater focus on whole ingredients and flavors are built up more in other ways: different types of salt (miso, soy sauce, etc. in addition to table salt), sauces, vinegar, sake, fresh ginger and garlic, etc. And sesame oil, which I think is very highly underrated.

    • Thanks for inviting me to follow up, @StephenL! I’m still plugging away at Chinese (Mandarin and a little Cantonese now) and also Japanese! My trip to Japan really inspired me to start learning that language as well. When I saw all the kanji (Chinese characters used in the Japanese language), I decided I should start learning Japanese as well. I also started picking up a bunch of Japanese phrases and figured I would keep the ball rolling. What also helps is I have an aunt who is from Japan and her husband (my uncle) served his LDS mission in Japan. So, having a pair of Japanese relatives really helps to inspire me to keep pushing through that language. 

      The goal I have is to do 90 minutes every weekday on Mandarin via YouTube and 45 minutes of Japanese via YouTube. If I have any extra time, I’ll watch a Cantonese video or something for fun. On the weekends I’m a bit more chill to give myself a little bit of a break. I also have my grammar book for Chinese (shown in the picture of my article) as well as a Japanese grammar book and Japanese kanji book. I aim to read those for 30 minutes each per day as well, but I’m much more focused on the YouTube side since it’s more fun and it’s also getting me to hear the languages being spoken. 

      My Mandarin has gotten to a good enough level now that I can send text messages to people and I can hold basic conversations. I’ve been told I’m around the level of an HSK 3 speaker on a scale of 1-6 for those that know that system. While I’m still a long ways off from reaching the level I want to reach, I do feel I’m making serious progress there.  

      As for Japanese, it’s slow going at the moment since I’ve been studying for 6 months (since August of last year) and I’m not putting as much time into it. I do intend to ramp up my Japanese study soon, but I’m doing the 45 minutes to ease my way into it and not overload by brain since Chinese is such load in and of itself. What I have found is that as my Mandarin gets better, I’m more comfortable with Japanese since that foundation is getting stronger.

      What also helps is that having started with Mandarin first, I’m already familiar with Chinese characters (Called kanji in Japanese), so there’s a lot of crossover in that area. For example, the days of the week in Japanese have different names based on different characters. Monday is Moon Day, Tuesday is Fire Day, Wednesday is Water Day, Thursday is Wood Day, Friday is Gold Day, Saturday is Earth Day, and Sunday is Sun Day. 

      What also helps is that each Kanji has at least two different ways of being pronounced called “onyomi” and “kunyomi.” That sounds confusing, but the “onyomi” is based on the Chinese pronunciation while the “kunyomi” is based on the natural Japanese pronunciation. By learning the onyomi, I’m able to see a lot of parallels with Chinese in that vein. 

      Of course, aside from what I call the “Kanji Crossover”, Japanese is a wholly different language from Chinese and that makes it challenging. Japanese has verb conjugations (something Chinese doesn’t have) and has different layers of how to speak to someone pending on their rank in society. A formal speech vs. a plain speech, basically. But that part combined with verb conjugations makes Japanese a very challenging language to learn. Japanese also has two alphabets called hiragana and katakana that need to be learned as well. So, trying to memorize those has been challenging. 

      Ultimately, what keeps me plugging away at Chinese and Japanese is my interest in Asian culture. When I was in high school, I tried Japanese and dropped it. Now I’m back at it and determined to figure it out. It’s challenging, but also really exciting! Also, I’ve started sharing some of my knowledge and insights on YouTube to help other learners out. Super informal. Just like one a month or so where I share challenges I've had, etc. Here is my latest video. If anyone has any follow up questions, let me know! 

    • I've actually continued reading one book a month this year, though I'm not making it much of a big deal, since I want it to be a habit now. I've already read four books now and have already started my fifth. Here's a summary of the books I've read so far.

      Malice - Keigo Higashino

      This is a book by a Japanese author that was very well received, and I completely understand why. The writing style was really easy to follow and the story was intriguing. It's a story about two friends, one of whom is murdered by the other. So the mystery, unlike most crime novels, isn't trying to figure out who the murderer is, it's instead why the murderer committed the crime. The story is intelligent, has plenty of twists and turns and keeps you gripped till the very end. Loved it.

      Zero Day - Ezekiel Boone

      This is the third book in a trilogy that I started last year, making it the first ever book trilogy I've completed. The trilogy tells the story of a pandemic, but not the kind we're currently facing. An ancient race of man-eating spiders have arisen from their slumber and have caused havoc across the globe. I liked the trilogy, though I wasn't really a fan of the author's style of writing. There was a lot of unnecessary backstory and what I call "fluff" which didn't contribute to the main story at all. There were chapters where literally the only pertinent part was the last paragraph, while the rest of the chapter was completely unnecessary. Most movies that are based on books end up cutting a lot out to fit into a standard movie run time, but with this trilogy, I reckon they could turn the entire trilogy into a single movie and it will still be quite good.

      The Firm - John Grisham

      Definitely the most popular book I've read so far along with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which I read last year. I absolutely loved the book, though I hated the film. The story was incredibly written with a lot of espionage-esque action. A very sophisticated story which has stood the test of time and is still a fun read despite being almost 30 years old.

      Soft in the Head - Marie-Sabine Roger

      I tried to step out of my comfort zone by reading something completely different from what I usually read, and I hated it 🤣 I don't know if it's because I just don't like the genre, or if I genuinely just didn't like the story, or if it was a bad story, but it was a real chore for me to finish reading this book despite how short it is. I guess I'll be more careful about stepping out of my comfort zone from now on.

      So those are the four books I've read so far this year. I'm currently reading Pop Goes the Weasel by James Patterson, which is his second book I'm reading. Much more my speed than the last book I read. Now that we're all stuck at home I'm glad I developed this interest in reading. Would be quite dull to look at a screen all day long.

    • I tried to step out of my comfort zone by reading something completely different from what I usually read, and I hated it

      I wonder if the challenge of stepping out of your normal reading genres is that it’s hard to know if you’re reading a representative sample of greatness or mediocrity.

      By contrast, I can pick up a science fiction novel, flip to anywhere in the book, and after three or pages of reading I can usually tell if it’s competent writing and if it’s written in a style I will likely enjoy.

      For a book on history, however, I would have to defer to an expert bibliophile on the genre like @Pathfinder.

    • Last week, @JBeck started a thread on Livestream Concert Photography. It got me wondering whether we had any concert photographers for live events on Cake and I ended up finding this.

      At a certain phase of my photography journey, I used to shoot a lot of live music performances. I found it rewarding to enhance listening to some of my favourite bands and musicians by the attempts to capture some worthy visual representations. At first I was just carting my camera along as I attended the gigs, and later I partnered with some friendly (usually web-based) publications and shot some reportage for them in exchange for accreditation at this or that festival (never did anything important enough to undercut the job market in that area, which didn't really even exist at the time in Russia). Sometimes I mixed both of the worlds - went to a gig on my own penny but got press access in exchange for some pics of the headliners, etc.

      Some friends were wondering if trying to capture the moment detracts from the actual performance, but I have never found that to be a problem. I even found that perhaps the reverse is true - to capture a moment, you need to really tune in to what's going on, and look at it and feel everything at another level of detail and sensitivity.

      Some great concert photographs and the stories behind them were shared by @mbravo in this conversation ...

      ... and I was wondering if we could get more stories and concert photos from his archives.


    • We’ve had several conversations in the past few months on television series in the sci-fi genre. From Altered Carbon Season 2 to The Expanse Season 4 to @Victoria’s SEE discussion to Lost in Space.

      But what about West World? It’s an often violent but visually stunning series that draws you in, even as the on-screen brutality can cause you to avert your eyes. @Eddieb hosted the below discussion when season 2 was released.

      What’s your feelings so far on Season 3, @Eddieb? Do you think its still worth watching? And do you think there were any episodes in Season 2 that could’ve been safely skipped?—a few people commented that the second season was a bit of a slog to get through.


      UPDATE: EddieB was kind enough to provide a reply here.

    • ... and I was wondering if we could get more stories and concert photos from his archives.

      I'll be delighted and thank you for the kind invitation! Would you like me to post some in this thread or extend the original one?

    • Would you like me to post some in this thread or extend the original one?

      Wonderful! If you could post them to this thread it would be appreciated.


    • Autism is a subject of interest to many users and their families.

      A year ago, I had the honor of speaking with Mikhaela Ackerman, aka @edgeoftheplayground, about her personal experiences and her advocacy efforts.

      @edgeoftheplayground, Last we talked, you were in the process of publishing a book about your life and your journey, co-authored with your mom. Would you mind sharing an update on the book and what you’ve been up to since our interview? Any strategies you can provide for autistic families home with their children while schools are closed would be appreciated: I’d imagine establishing new routines would be challenging for some children—and adults—with autism.


      Tagging @lidja

    • @Shewmaker is one of our writers on Cake and shared awhile back some tips for creating the right atmosphere.

      Starting a new writing project may be a worthwhile pursuit right now for many users staying at home. @Shewmaker, do you have any other good tips to share for productive writing?

      UPDATE: Shewmaker was kind enough to provide a reply here and here:

    • Have you ever checked out Shawn Crowder's YouTube channel, Japanese In A Year? He spent basically every spare minute studying Japanese, so obviously that's not totally inline with your goals. But you might find some tips there that you find helpful.

      When I learned hiragana and katakana the thing that helped me the most was to basically just write out the kana tables over and over until I could do it from memory. You could also do flashcards - I have an Anki deck made up if you're interested in it.

      How are you finding the onyomi/kunyomi challenge? I've always found it difficult when a kanji has more than two pronunciations. You probably have an advantage there, but if I remember correctly, Chinese only uses one sound for each character.

    • Two years ago, @Shay led an important discussion on losing weight.

      A lot of personal stories from users were shared as well as some food science tips from @Chris.

      Two years later, are you finding it easier or harder to achieve your body weight goals, @Shay? Are there any “super foods” or routines that have been helpful. An update please!


      UPDATE: Apologies @Shay, I forgot to invite you to the panel! An invite has now been sent.

    • There are sooo many topics on Cake that it’s almost like being a kid in a candy store when I discover a new one. Volunteering is a topic that isn’t posted to that often, however, I found this interesting comment from @lidja last summer:

      I am volunteering to help establish a little foundation that will deliver small flower bouquets to local hospitals for patients who need a little “pick-me-up” (i.e. don’t get visitors, are far from home, can’t get outside, have long hospitalization times, etc.) 

      One of the challenges is making the bouquets safe by using unbreakable containers. Hopefully, the containers will be returned for re-use, but there’s no telling whether that will happen. (The bouquets will be delivered to the hospital volunteer coordinator who will relay them to nurses in the units that will likely have patients who could use these “pick-me-ups.” HIPAA prevents the hospital from identifying these patients to volunteers for the purpose of delivering the bouquets.)

      @lidja, Would you mind sharing an update on this project? What was the vase that ended up working for you? I’m assuming deliveries are on hold for the duration.