Insta-Pot Rice & Beans with "Moss" sauce

Here's a recipe that recreates the the taste of Portland's Macheesmo Mouse healthy Mexican food.

Boss Sauce

  • 10-12 ancho peppers
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 12oz (1 can) orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 cup (low sodium) soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 cups water

Cook on high in Insta-pot for 8 min.  Natural release for 10 min then quick release .

After cooking, add 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar. Wait for it to cool, then liquify in blender

Strain before using.  I store it in a quart Mason jar. Stays refrigerated for up to a month.

About peppers

Ancho peppers are dried poblano peppers that are deep dark red or maroon in color. Anchos (ancho means wide in Spanish) are mild to moderately hot. You can substitute Mulato, Pasilla, California or Dried New Mexico chile peppers.

Black Bean spices

  • 1 Tbsp dried onions
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp Oregano (optional for "cuban style")
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil (optional)
  • 2 cups dried beans
  • 5 cups water

Cook on high in Insta-pot for 30 min. Natural release for 10 min then quick release 

Rice Spices

  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic power or 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne 
  • 1 cup brown rice  
  • 1 cup water

Cook on high in Insta-pot for 30 min & quick release

Time-saving Tip

You can cook the bean and rice at the same time.  Start the beans in the Insta-pot and then use a rack to suspend a glass bowl for the rice. Use the longer cooking time of the beans.

Serving Suggestions

  • Make a beans & rice bowl, topped with sour cream, avocados and salsa. Drizzle with sauce.
  • Make a burrito. The sauce goes great great with beans & rice. Add Monterey Jack cheese and hot sauce.
  • Use the sauce to baste roast chicken and serve on top of the beans & rice.


Sourdough Pancakes with Oregon Wild Huckleberries

Grandma's Secret Recipe: Sourdough

Blueberry Pancakes
For years my grandmother Monica would make sourdough pancakes with blueberries or, more often, with wild Oregon huckleberries.  She had a berry bush in the yard in Coos Bay and we grandkids would get up early and pick (and eat) some berries for the pancakes. What I didn’t realize until I was an adult was that she had prepared for the pancakes the night ahead.

A couple years after college I was visiting my grandmother when she gave me some of her sourdough starter and the recipe for her pancakes.  The night before she removed a jar of started from the refrigerator and added that to a bowl with 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of flour.  In the morning she saved 1 cup of starter in her jar and then used the rest to make the pancakes.

She had received her sourdough starter from a family friend who had had it going since the early 1960s.  I had just bought a house and the starter went into the refrigerator in the new place as a housewarming gift. I kept the starter going for years after that and was even able to return some of it her on the occasion when she forgot to save out a cup after making pancakes. Unfortunately, in the 2000s our refrigerator died one hot summer and the starter turned blackish gray. I should have fed it but instead ended up tossing it (along with most of the contents of the fridge).

Restarting the Starter

A couple weeks ago my friend Molly gave me some of her sourdough starter. She’s a big fan of the King Arthur’s Flour website for sourdoughbaking tips and had been posting her recent baking adventures.  I figured it was time to get back into baking with sourdough. Also I had a secret goal: I had recently picked a lot of fresh blueberries and wanted to make my grandmother’s sourdough pancakes.

When I got the starter from Molly, however, I had a slightly embarrassing question. I had read an article in the Oregonian about what to do with your sourdough discard.  All of my recipes came from my grandmother and she never mentioned anything about a discard.  So I had to admit, aside from the alcohol that forms on the top of the starter, I had never discarded anything. What is the discard?

Molly was nice enough to explain that most recipes called for creating large amount of starter, and then to use only a portion of that in the baking and to discard the rest.  It suddenly clicked for me: My grandmother’s sourdough pancake recipe was the discard recipe.  She used the sourdough for flavoring and not so much for a rise.

Handling Sourdough

My grandmother had some special rules for sourdough that I’m not sure about:

1)      Use milk for the starter. I’ve done it both ways, with milk and with water. Both ways work.

2)      Don’t let the starter touch metal. Use porcelain or glass bowls, use a wooden spoon for mixing and put a piece of Saran Wrap under between the metal lid and the glass jar for storing the starter.

Thanks to Molly for the insight and to my grandmother Monica for all the times she served up pancakes. Here’s my grandmother’s recipe for sourdough pancakes based on the discard.  Make sure you add lots of fresh blueberries or, if you’re lucky enough, Oregon wild huckleberries.

Recipe for Sourdough Pancakes (with berries)

The night before, put the starter into a porcelain bowl with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of milk. Stir to mix.

In the morning be sure to remove save 1 cup of starter back into the refrigerator.

To the rest add:

  •           1 egg
  •           2 tablespoons of neutral oil like canola
  •           2 tablespoons of sugar
  •           1 teaspoon of baking soda
  •           1 teaspoon of salt (can be less)

Mix well and then cook on the griddle over medium-high heat.  Add berries before flipping the pancakes. Serve immediately with butter and syrup.

This recipe makes about 8 pancakes. If you want to make more, just double everything in the recipe, including the flour and milk in the overnight bowl.  Just remember to always save 1 cup of starter before adding eggs, etc.



Retrospective on the Covid-19 Coronavirus outbreak, March 2020

We are now heading toward the back of the curve for the COVID-19 outbreak.  These are my notes thinking about how to deal with the virus based on what I've read.

We know that without preventions, the R0 of COVID-19 is about 3.  Unchecked, this will lead to exponential infection.  More on R0 here.

Models say that 65%+ of a population need be infected before herd immunity starts to work. With a mortality rate of about 1%, this means a significant number of deaths before herd immunity starts to work.

There is no vaccination and because this is a novel virus, no one has had the disease before and no one has past immunity. This means there’s no medical way to control the spread of the disease. So, prevention and containment are the best tools we have.


Using both hygiene and physical barriers can reduce the R0 from 3 to about .6.  At this rate the infection will be reduced to a manageable level.

Hygiene protocols

  • Wash hands
  • Use sanitizer when soap not available
  • Cover your cough (mask is best)
  • Clean heavy-touch surfaces

Physical barriers

  • Quarantine
  • Social distance - 6 to 10 ft
  • Wear masks
  • Use plastic barriers
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to large groups (10+) in closed areas


A note on Political barriers - such as borders of states or countries. These are not effective methods to prevention and should not be implemented.  If one person can cross the border, then the infection can cross the border.

It's a pandemic - which means the infection has spread throughtout the world.  Containment can happen only after a reduction in the number of active cases.  So, we need these precautions as ongoing activities until there is a vaccine for COVID-19:

  • Check for symptoms (fever + cough) in people who may have been exposed
  • Test randomly and often in mobile populations
  • Implement contact tracing. Ban large gatherings since these make contact tracing impossible.
  • Continue quarantine for more vulnerable individuals
  • Apply highest cost-benefit social distancing measures
  • Explore immunity after recovery: serologic testing for antibodies 
This author describes these activities as "The Dance." During the dance there will be a number of challenges.  Here are the challenges I see:

Health Challenges

  • Invisible carriers: Asymptomatic carriers (25%?) & pre-symptomatic carriers
  • Long incubation period: 4-14 days
  • We live in a highly mobile world that affords lots of opportunity for the virus.

Information Challenges

  • Uncertainty - this is a new situation so a lot is unknown.
  • Lack of studies
  • Hard to compare with existing viruses (eg: SARS)
  • Misinformation

Challenges specific to the United States

  • Healthcare tied to employment
  • Years of erosion in the social support nets
  • Political climate
    • Distrust in government
    • Poor leadership at the national level
    • Politicians using the pandemic to their political objectives
  • Without social safety nets, the pandemic turns into a health vs economy situation, which is wrong.
  • Geographic mobility. It's possible to travel across the US without any checkpoints or borders. Also, except for Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and some other territories, not a lot of pinch points in terms of physical location


Discovering Value Stream Mapping in Agile

I know very little about value stream mapping. It seemed like a way to quantify improvements in the biz process. Since this month's topic was Value Stream Mapping, I decided to attend AgilePDX's Virtual pub lunch to learn more.

The topic was described as:
Value Stream Mapping: this Toyota technique is often associated with lean manufacturing - and it can be a powerful tool applied to agile software development processes: Visualizing your workflow and inspecting it for "waste" to delivery more value fluently. But there are many questions: what is the definition of waste (or value)? When is this technique best applied? Join us to talk about your experience mapping value, and hear how others have worked with this process to what effect.
Here are my questions with some answers gleaned during the lunch.

Q: Can I get an explanation of "Why use value mapping?" that isn't a circular definition? (ie: doesn't use the word "value" or "waste").  What's a practical example?

A: It's good for seeing the flow of business.
  For example, if you or your team don't deliver then who's affected by this?
  It helps you fully understand who _your_ customer is in the development process.
  eg: If you're creating an accounting invoice... how to know who will use this?
  It can also expose risk: Finding where the "magic occurs" part of the process is a good way to expose risky areas.

Case study: A company wanted to create an invoice.
Normally it took them 3 weeks to generate an invoice.
Neal used value stream mapping to look at the information flow.
There was a lot of double entry, incorrect information.
They realized they needed to incorporate their CRM system into the accounting system.
This helped reduce double entry work and increased accuracy.
They also reduced their invoice time from 3 weeks to 1 week.

Q: Is this only for large companies?
A: Good for small to medium groups as well.  It's a way for employees to see how they add value.
  It's also good to expose "mysteries" in the value chain.

Q: Is value mapping more of an art or a science?
A:  Some art to it. It's not a black & white answer...
 The more experience with it the more it's a science.
 You can use PDCA to quantify the results -- while testing the changes.
 In the beginning, you might not know the costs of development time and cycle times.
 Once you start learning that, you can start doing metric-based learning experiments.

A: Resource to results ratio = key metric.
 If you can't identify resource to results ratio then you'll need to implement that.
 An example of a resource to results ratio is a baseball player's ERA. It shows the value of an individual's contribution to the team.  (Can also show the value of a team to a company).

Q: What if you don't know how to quantify the value?
A: If it's difficult to see the value stream, then maybe your process needs to be re-evaluated
  Don't worry about trying to hard to quantify the value. This method is also good for exposing problems... showing what don't you know, what is a mess.

Q: What are some stumbling blocks?
A: It's hard to get people to agree on the value of using value stream mapping.
Try it out and see how it's useful.
One person mentioned a decision that could save 3 cents on the product, but will cost 50 cents on support. The big picture of the map showed how the upstream decision caused problems & costs downstream.

A: Putting a dollar amount to processes was a stumbling block.
Steven found that this was irrelevant. Mapping the process helped identify where things were taking too long -- and this was easily translated to "time is money."

A: Are you providing value to the downstream, or are you causing increased costs?
Look at the PDCA cycle (Plan Do Check Act) and test it out.
Is your value added?   If not, then roll it back.
For example, the value chain can show you the cost of your hand offs.

Q: What about using value stream mapping to assess the value of software testing?
A: This is simpler if you have historical data (already released software with defects).
Measure the cost of escaped defects (support, code fixes, customer satisfaction, brand reputation)
Then you can use this to support value of testing.
Alternatively, you can use Net Promoter score to measure this.

Q: Can you recommend any good introductory books?

Related links:


Testing, Agile and Devops: How does it all jive?

Devops is slightly nebulous phrase because it's a mix of technologies, methods and roles.  In short, it means that operations works tightly with development during the development cycle and beyond.  Think of it as “shifting right” in the same way that many people talk about shifting quality left in the development process.

Some of the technologies are 
While there are many parts to Devops methods, the most interesting are:
    • With containers you can treat configuration like code -- storing the configuration as scripts in a revision control system.  So, the container configuration can be static and tracked.  This enhances security as well as making the configuration more transparent.
    The Devops role, is someone who specializes in these technologies. Also essential is someone who can work with the team and help interface with QA, security, development, operations.  The ultimate idea of Devops is embedding someone representing operations in the development team.

    So, how does it all come together?  Agile methods mean that you have potentially deployable code at the end of a sprint. With Devops that can become actually deployable. But, devops also helps make deploying to production less scary:
    • The deployment is automated.
    • SDETs have written automated regression tests to check the existing system.
    • Containers allow you to run multiple test deploys in parallel, testing multiple configurations.

    • Security configuration can be built in to the container scripts.
    Since automated tests, deployment and configuration are all code, they can be revised, tested and run automatically often.  This allows QA to focus during a sprint on the new functions, including end-to-end and user experience.


    Product Camp Portland 2018

    Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend Product Camp Portland.  My motivation was that usually I'm on the technical side of projects. Product Camp was a chance for me to explore and hear how people who work with the customer-side of development solve problems and explore possibilities.

    Product Camp is an Open Space conference, or un-conference, similar to Agile Open Northwest. This means that attendees pitch potential sessions and everyone votes on the topics they want to attend.

    The pitch process took about half an hour and it was interesting how interactive even that process was. Teresa Torres was the first woman in the line-up. She remarked how the gender ratio was biased 5:1 towards men. From her encouragement, more women proposed sessions and the end result for the conference was closer to 50/50. It was an immediate and inspiring outcome.

    There were slots for 16 sessions in all. I was only able to attend four, but I took sketchnotes of the sessions I attended. It's a fun way for me to quickly internalize the topics and I like to share with attendees on twitter.  It's also a good way to meet people.
    Here are my notes.

    Arya from Cambia told her story how she became a product owner, and then discussed the key points for creating a compelling story that engages customers and colleagues.

    Dave Flotree covered the key points of how to gather user-validated design data through interviews. He also discussed how to use Affinity Diagrams to create a holistic picture of your users' needs.

    Teresa Torres gave her definition of continuous product discovery and then discussed the problems and questions people had about the process. 

    Paul W. Save and Dr. Quentin Caudron from CBRE had traveled all the way from Vancouver, Canada to talk about how product managers can integrate machine learning into their systems.  I really appreciated their talk, and also how enthusiastic they were about my sketchnotes.

    Overall, Product Camp Portland was conference which managed to stay cozy despite having over 350 attendees. I look forward to attending again.

    FYI, here's Mike Rohde's "The Sketchnote Handbook" which has a lot of good ideas and inspiration about using drawing to capture the ideas during meetings and conferences.


    Pacific NW Software Quality Conference (PNSQC) 2017

    Once again I had the opportunity to attend the Pacific NW Software Quality Conference (PNSQC) in Portland, Oregon in October.  Although "Scaling Quality" was the official theme, the unofficial subtext seemed to be the importance of recognizing that people and teams have feelings. Humanity, doubt, uncertainty and joy were all topics covered by speakers. Unfortunately, I missed Penny Allen's keynote on the first day on "Quality Engineering 2017: Trends, Tricks, and Traps," but here are my sketchnotes from the talks I attended.

    In "The Power of Doubt," Zeger Van Hese acknowledges that "I don't know" may be the hardest phrase for any tech team to admit, but at the beginning of any project it is the most honest answer.  He discussed how to use skepticism and the scientific method to explore assumptions and advance incrementally without bias.

    Clyneice Chaney's presentation "Trimming Down your QA Effort While Maintaining Quality" covered ways for companies to apply Lean manufacturing principles to QA and development.  She looked at techniques for finding waste and methods for applying Lean solutions.

    Taking a cue from Stephen Covey, Phil Lew examined the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Agile." His message is that agile is a long-term habit, and building an agile mindset takes time and should be deliberate.

    In Lee Copeland's talk he applied ideas from Eric Ries' "The Lean Startup" to the test environment.  "The Lean Startup Method and Its Value for Testers" related the core ideas of a the book: customer development, the build-measure cycle, the MVP, validated learning and "1 metric" to the testing process.

    Katy Sherman started her keynote with a some early morning dancing and then a flashlight poll to ask "Who Owns Quality In Agile?"  Then she got into the tough questions: after the first success of an agile transformation, how to integrate Quality into the full development lifecycle?

    A definition of ecology is "the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings."  In his talk "Product Ecology for the Elicitation of Requirements," Ruud Cox explained his method for exploring the relationships between the system under development and the people and environment where it will be used. By using various heuristics he maps the ecology of the stakeholders and other ecosystems such as value chains, supply chains, and user scenarios. He talked about using this method on projects ranging from medical devices to parking lot streetlights.

    I didn't get a chance to sketchnote it, but Berglind Bergsdóttir's presentation on "Feeling Like a Fake – The Impostor Syndrome" was inspiring and endearing. Her presentation was both vulnerable and empowering at the same time.

    Her team's project was to achieve alignment among all the Scrum teams in the company.  She presented the case study and lessons learned along the way.

    In "Scalable, Humane Code Review" Ian Dees pointed out a paradox: sometimes we can be more humane by automating the parts of the process that raise conflict.  As he mentions, "let the robot be the enforcer."

    Of all the talks, I was most looking forward to hearing from Rich Sheridan of Menlo Innovations and the author of "Joy, Inc." Earlier this year I had read his book as part of an Agile book club, and Menlo sounded like an ideal workplace. Later that day I had the opportunity to have dinner with Rich and some other PNSQC attendees, and he was as gracious and interesting as his writer's voice is in the book. My notes on his closing keynote "Build A Workplace People Love – Just Add Joy" are very sparse -- mostly because he covers the details much better in his book, but there were a few points I wanted to pull out for posterity.