Food Wastage at Restaurants

Dining out is no longer a privilege of the, well, privileged few. We all revel in this seemingly daily ritual of living in a modern city and working arduous day jobs. Dining out also affords is the luxury of meeting new people, catching up with older acquaintances, refreshing our brains, all without the added strain of planning and cooking a nice meal.

Restaurants also associate serving standard sized portions with quality and standards compliance. But, we’re not all the same. While I would be left unsatisfied even after chowing down on a bowl of salad with extra dressing, there are plenty others that would consider it a meal for two. It’s not easy to please everyone.

What do people do? They just leave half-eaten food in their plate. Doggy-bagging is frowned upon, especially in European cultures, and no one wants to eat leftovers the next day. Restaurants just throw away the food, even if it is seemingly untouched, as the legal ramifications of re-purposing untouched food and hence introducing sanitary grey areas is not a laughing matter.

How do you do the right thing for the planet while also not breaking any societal norms? I propose a pro-active approach — the next time you’re at a restaurant, give the portion a brief stare as it’s set on the table, and simply ask for a spare plate so that the extra bit could be taken away and back to the kitchen. You haven’t even started eating, yet, and so there should potentially be no sanitary reasons for the kitchen to refuse to oblige your request.

I do this quite a lot whenever I order coffee as I hardly ever eat the cookie served with it. All those wasted cookies add up. Food wastage is food wastage, even if it’s as simple as refined flour and sugar.

Remember, change always starts small.

New Portfolio Website

I finally managed to put together a new portfolio website to generate leads for business as well as showcase my professional and personal projects.

You can find it here — gargs.nl

I initially started with a WordPress theme, which wasn’t really that hard to setup on a new server as DigitalOcean makes it really easy to setup a VPS with the entire stack pre-configured. The only things that need to be done post-installation are setting up the private keys for remote login, disabling password-based logins, setting up the sudo-ers, and configuring LetsEncrypt. The hardest part is actually picking a theme and setting it up to your taste.

WordPress uses a database. It is PHP based. For a portfolio website which doesn’t really change that often, I figured that setting up a server with a database was really overkill. You also get an elegant editor, but it is not going to be used often. Finally, PHP has quite the learning curve.

It is then that I started looking at static site generators, and Hugo in particular. The first step is running a terminal command to setup a new website that creates the directory structure, followed by (usually) cloning the repository for a theme that you want to use. You also get the flexibility to use multiple themes for any particular site. The best part is that being templated, your website grows gradually in the form of git commits. This also gives you the flexibility to tweak the theme by just forking it. The theme I picked is quite simple, yet elegant for a portfolio website.

I also got into a bit of designing while building the website. The demo website using the theme used a lot of SVGs, and I decided to use some of my own. Turns out that SVGs are great for websites. They are vector-based which means that they look amazing on Retina displays. I wonder why websites just don’t use them for everything that isn’t a photo.

Uploading the website to the server is also just a matter of using scp or rsync, depending on how big your website is. There are even entire hosted workflows to automate this part — you push a new commit that triggers a new build of the website that triggers a new sync. It really can’t get any better than this!

Give my website a look and send me any feedback!

15 years of Web Domain

Yesterday marked 15 years since I purchased my first ever Internet domain — a 5 character .com domain — gargs.com that is smaller than some company domains, and the same length as apple.com. So lucky!

There’s another upside to this – my email address has been a gargs.com address ever since. I never had to add zeros or special characters to differentiate my common name with those of other people. It is easy to remember, makes my emails look classy, and I never have to worry about a service closing shop. If my hosting provider shuts down, I just point the MX records over to a new provider’s server. I even have SPF and DMARC configured on the domain.

I am slowly migrating away from free services in consideration of matters of privacy and long-term retention. Here’s to more personal domains on the Internet! 🍻

Don’t Read This

A famous VC blogged about the ‘Free and Open Internet‘ recently. Their rant — they couldn’t read a newspaper opinion piece for free, which is a fundamental right of all human beings, and in those circumstances they feel that newspapers have ‘ceded their role as the public square to places like Twitter and Medium that remain open and free‘.

Wait, what?

Free as in beer? Free as in a dream?

Twitter and Medium are hardly free. They monetize your free expression. They prioritize the trending content instead of what you want to see or read. They log everything you do on their platforms and beyond, and then they leak that data to advertisers and repressive governments. People die.

Newspapers have always been paid. The public square is the park or the verandah where you read a newspaper and discuss stories with other humans. This is a concept that none of the ‘hardworking’ employees of Twitter or Medium would understand. How many hours do they even get to spend at home without answering a work email or fixing issues?

If you want to read an opinion piece, go buy a newspaper, or borrow one, or goto the library. Oh, a library. Another architectural artifact from the bygone era that these ‘entrepreneurs’ want to get rid of. Because public money is better spent on funding their startups.

The free and open internet was a goofy place. A place where you could set up a cheap website with rudimentary skills and show it off. No botheration with SEO or tracking your visitors or showing them ads. Everything was cheap. Technology still continues to be cheap and free.

So what changed? People changed. They’re more entitled to ‘information’ just like this rich guy. No, you don’t just get stuff for free. It’s a lie. Stop reading crap like this and go setup your own blog, write your own opinions, and start your own companies without borrowing or begging from selfish enablers of bad behavior.

The Internet is still a wonderful place to connect with others. You just have to stay clear of the pull of the free. And remember, the only thought leader who really matters is you.

On Change

A lot of people and companies make change the centerpiece of their existence.

‘We want to change the world’

‘I want to change the way I talk’

‘Be the change you want to see in the world’

‘We need to change in order to be successful’

Someone once said that the only constant in life is change. It’s part of the journey, and not the destination, for there is always something that needs to be changed. If you hit the point where everything is perfect, there’s no reason to exist. Imagine the global catastrophe that a state of perfection would bring!

Change isn’t easy; change requires effort. Well, unless you’re changing for the worse. Arguably, picking up on drugs and alcohol isn’t as hard and strenuous as perhaps learning to be an effective public speaker. The fortunate thing is that humans generally love a bout of some healthy challenge. No one plays a game of chess because it’s an easy way to kill some time.

I was talking to someone (an entrepreneur) the other day, and they cheekily pointed out that they are in the game to change the business. Upon asking what exactly they meant by change, they had no idea of what exactly.

So much of your professional existence depends upon bringing out change in people and processes that it’s essentially how you’re evaluated. You don’t need to look very far at how prescient, yet, simple that conclusion gets.

What if we took change out of the equation? What if we took it out of our vernacular? To change is to be alive. You grow, you learn, you adapt, you make a difference. That’s called — having fun.

Learning to drive is fun, it’s also a change. So is cycling in the countryside with just 2 bottles of water and a camera. It’s even more fun when you get a flat tire and end up having the best pancake of your life in the middle of the jungle.

What if we renamed ‘change’ to ‘having fun’?! Your life would become so much more dynamic, and well, fun.

Let today be the day you start having fun.

My Daily Morning Highlight

I have increasingly and gradually become a creature of habit; from my morning walk route to what I have after dinner (a cup of green tea), things have become very routine and sort of monotonous. There is something to be said about not having to spend a lot of time in taking decisions as mundane as what to eat or where to go for a walk when the answer is right there in your (hopefully good) habits!

One such highlight of my morning walk is the old-age/retirement home that I pass around the corner towards the end of the street I live on. It is a ‘high-class’ home for people that can afford to live in this neighborhood. It has to be – meals are catered, every room seems to have custom-placed and distinct furnishings, as well as the presence of onsite medical facilities.

Now, I pass through the building twice – before and after I turn around the other corner of the neighborhood. On the first pass I often run into this old lady smoking a cigarette while on her upper-ground floor balcony. She occasionally ascertains if the grocery store would be open while puffing on her cigarette. One time I even brought her a pack of cigarettes to save her the trouble of walking to the grocery store. I think it was unexpected for her as a result of a miscommunication (I learn my Dutch language by talking to strangers) as she never paid me back for it.

On my second pass, I walk in front of the brasserie as well as the main entrance. At the entrance, there are often a bunch of old people and/or employees enjoying their cigarettes (the Dutch love their cigarettes), and so I get a chance to wish them a good morning. Inside the brasserie, at the same table towards the very end of it, I,  almost daily, see an old guy reading his newspaper, presumably having just finished his late breakfast. We even wave to each other.

I have this experience almost every morning, except the weekends, when we take a different route for our pre-coffee walk.

One of these days I’d probably get a chance to go in and talk to the people in person.

A Travel Hack

The best way to travel is to travel light. And with the current heightened state of airport security you really don’t want to be caught in the discomforting web of special inspections just because you happen to be carrying gadgets that you might use on your trip.

I am surprised there haven’t been any real credible businesses set up to tackle this issue, yet. It sounds like an easy problem to fix – loan out laptops and digital cameras to people so that they don’t have to carry these with them on an airplane. I figure it would be difficult for corporate users owing to special software requirements and cloud use rules, but a vast majority of the ‘normal’ people should have absolutely no problems using loaner gadgets.

In fact, you could already do it – buy a new laptop whenever you travel, at the destination. Use it as much as you want, making sure you don’t abuse its condition. Depending on the return policy, return it before you leave your vacation destination. This works flawlessly if you use one of the many cloud services. iCloud will even restore your desktop and documents folders on any new laptop. It’s like you never changed your laptop.

This hack is a bit trickier for cameras as local retail establishments might have varying return policies for camera equipment.

 

When a Gadget Freak Gets Old

There is nothing philosophical about getting old – it’s a biological process. You could try to run from it, but you can’t hide from the age monster.

What is philosophical, though, is how your priorities change. Case in point – love for gadgets.

There was a time when I was the first person in my circle of acquaintances to procure the latest and greatest gadget. The first iPhone, the first iPad, the first online radio hardware player, you name it, I bought it.

That drive is now gone. It’s more about making the most of what I have. I have been using a 4 year old laptop. It just works and is only marginally slower than the latest and greatest. My desktop is inching towards its 3rd birthday. New iPads were announced and they don’t excite me.

I have gone from being a gadget freak to a gadget lover. I love my toys for the joy and productivity they bring. The computing gadget are indispesable, but so are the new Snapchat Spectacles, a cheap piece of tech that makes it a much more joyful experience to capture daily videos. Whereas I couldn’t really manage to make videos of my cycling trips with an iPhone, the ones that come out of these googles are nothing short of amazing.

I want new things rather than new things.

Apart from the aging process, I think a driver for this change is the fact that most gadgets now come with a yearly upgrade cycle. The periodic purchases for the same gadget, just shinier and faster, gets old after a few tries. In the interest of the planet and sustainability, tech companies need to start looking at ways to maximize earnings without forcing users to spend on new devices every few months.

Sonos is great at this. The speaker you purchased 4 years ago still works like new and still receives the same software updates as one you purchased just yesterday.

I can’t imagine myself springing for a new car every year once tech companies pivot to transportation. Or, maybe that would be a sign that gadgets are better leased than owned.