Weekly output: World Central Kitchen, Mint renewal, social media vs. Trump (2x), Struum

Last Sunday feels like two weeks ago, but an attempted coup at the Capitol by a violent mob will do that to a seven-day span of time. This afternoon, I biked over to Capitol Hill and saw a changed place, locked down inside fences decorated with the occasional flower.

1/5/2021: The tech that keeps World Central Kitchen cooking in times of disaster, Fast Company

This was one of the last pieces that I filed in 2020 (unless you count today as Dec. 41, 2020). I very much enjoyed a chance to tell a story of how hard-working professionals use technology to help other people eat.

1/6/2021: Here’s Intuit’s plan to get Mint back on track after years of neglect, Fast Company

When Intuit PR got in touch in early December offering a heads-up on these changes, I thought they would involve more at the start than a rewritten iPhone app, so this post reveals a certain amount of disappointment from my perspective as a Web-first Mint user. Note that the copy you see now differs slightly from what we posted Wednesday morning, reflecting a correction of one spelling of a product manager’s name as well as a few other changes to add context about some privacy issues. (I wrote more about this post’s backstory for Patreon subscribers.)

1/7/2021: Social-media platforms limit Trump, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me on (overdubbed) to talk about Facebook and Twitter moving to quarantine President Trump’s accounts.

1/7/2021: This Startup Wants To Sell You Hipster A-La-Carte Streaming TV, Forbes

The Wall Street Journal got an exclusive on the launch of a new startup called Struum, but I was able to advance the story in one way: by clarifying how you pronounce that moniker. (“Stroom” or, if you prefer diacritical marks, “Strüm.”)

1/9/2021: Social media platforms banning Trump, Al Jazeera

AJ had me back on after Twitter permanently banned Trump. The two big points I made: Twitter and other social networks may need to reconsider “world leader” policies that give more leeway for incitements to hate or violence to people with the biggest followings, and Trump can get a massive audience anytime during his last days in office by walking over to the White House Press Briefing Room.

2019 gardening report card: the persistence of parsley

Winter has yet to bring more than decorative amounts of snow to the D.C. area, but it’s already inflicted enough hard frosts to put a period on my kitchen-gardening efforts. So it’s once again time to evaluate how my attempts to grown my own food have worked out.

(For reference: my 2018, 201720162015201420132012 and 2011 gardening grades.)

Arugula: A

This most reliable vegetable once again came through with spring and fall crops, although the latter didn’t measure up to the former. As I’ve written in earlier posts here: This is what you should try to grow before lettuce or spinach–the most fault-tolerant vegetable outside of parsley.

Parsley harvestHerbs: A-

So about that: Flat-leaf parsley remains my flagship herb, yielding so much in the spring and fall that I was able to make repeated batches of parsley-walnut pesto. Sage came in second, even before getting extra credit for flourishing in a garden bed I basically ignored after half of the wood framing was well into rotting apart.

The other herbs I attempted to cultivate, however, dragged down this category score. Basil did better than last year, in that I got one great batch of pesto sauce out of it, but it would have lasted longer had I put in more effort. Mint was fine and dill grew adequately, but everything else evaporated.

Lettuce: B

Even getting two months’ worth of lettuce from one packet of seeds beats buying the same amount in a grocery store or at a farmers’ market.

Spinach: B-

This was great in the spring, but my attempt at a fall crop petered out before I could pluck any leaves to throw in a sandwich or an omelette.

Tomatoes: F

The plants I bought got as far as flowering but never showed a single tomato. You can imagine my frustration as a native New Jerseyan, especially after last year’s moderately impressive harvest.

Green beans: F

I planted seeds that yielded nothing in the neglected garden bed that I should rebuild in the spring. At least I tried, which I can’t say for cucumbers or bell peppers.

 

Tax-time thoughts: now with slightly less incompetent accounting!

I have survived, I think, another tax season as a self-employed individual, and I’m increasingly convinced that if I keep doing this I will someday know what I’m doing.

Misc. incomeOnce again, my worst enemy was my inattentive and sloppy accounting. I was still forgetting to tag some expenses as business transactions in Mint until last spring, and It took me until mid-September to lock in the habit of logging every cash expense within minutes of it happening. Memo to Google: This would be easier if the Google Drive app could edit spreadsheets offline.

For cash transactions not properly noted at the time, I had to recreate records months after the fact. That involved the tedious, time-consuming routine of cross-referencing my calendar, e-mail and Foursquare check-ins.

Importing the credit-card purchases that Mint had recorded automatically was the same as ever, which is not good: Intuit’s site still provides no way to limit a transaction search to a date range short of hand-editing a Web address. Intuit, this is idiotic. Try spending some of the money you sink into astroturfed lobbying into adding this most basic of features.

Last year also saw client income (Sulia and WordAds) arrive via PayPal deposits, a first for me. I liked the invoice-free convenience of those payments, but I made two rookie accounting mistakes. The big one was not identifying all of the subsequent PayPal transfers to my bank as freelance income; the little one was using some of a freelancing-inflated PayPal balance to reimburse my share of an Airbnb apartment rented for Mobile World Congress instead of first moving the sum of those freelance payments to my bank, then covering the lodging expense with a separate withdrawal from my bank.

The fact that I realized most of these errors in late March by itself represented my single biggest accounting failure–I spent too much of 2013 in a financial fog, which is stupid. So after cleaning up last year’s records, I set aside a couple of hours last weekend to do the same for those from the first quarter of this year. Like I said: I do learn, just not quickly.