Fancy Beans


Short Version

I’m Rachael Ludwick. I currently live in Seattle, Washington, USA with my partner, baby and cats. I work as as software developer at Amazon (disclaimer: this is a personal web site and nothing here or elsewhere on the web represents my employer). This blog is an attempt to learn new skills. Current topics are mostly agriculture and food related science, especially policy and non-scientist understanding of science. Other topics might include software, cooking, gardening, Seattle-related topics, transit, music etc.

Comment Policy

It’s my site, so I decide what makes a good comment thread. I don’t believe in deleting comments because I disagree, but I do believe in keeping discussions mostly on track (or at least interesting). If you’ve ever seen how John Scalzi moderates on his blog, then that’s the idea. I do not tolerate insults, bigotry, accusations or other forms of non-argument. Comments that I do not believe contribute to a discussion or are insulting or bigoted may be deleted and the poster banned (though I will generally give warnings in a thread before banning anyone or deleting comments.) Note that disqus was chosen due to expediency (octopress comes with support out of the box and I already had a disqus account). If you don’t like disqus, you’re welcome to contact me other ways.


Email or twitter are the easiest. I sometimes post pictures on Flickr as well. I sometimes also post on a separate tumblr.

Long, Boring Technical Details

Long ago, in college, when I was learning HTML and CSS (back when you were somehow a magical elf-creature if you could learn that stuff — and CSS was pretty new and browser support awful), I had a webpage on the college servers. I wanted it to be awesome with CSS-layout-goodness. It turned out I had to go with tables anyway, but I wanted to use the same styles and arrangements on each page. But because I had to go with tables, whenever I wanted to tweak the layout I had to edit a lot of files (well less than ten given the size of my site, but still frustrating). I sadly never really learned CSS very well.

Since that time I’ve had little interest in maintaining a website, because it seemed inevitably to require administering and maintaining server hardware. I write software for server-side applications and frankly hate having to screw with operating systems and network settings and all that crap. But recently (late 2011), I became aware that you can build a (mostly static) website using nothing but Amazon S3. See Jeff Barr’s post on the subject. Then I learned about Octopress which lets you statically generate a full site (blog-oriented) from Markdown formatted text files. Markdown looks (to my eyes) like simple wiki syntax. Thus, I realized I could have a website where I tweak layout and style in files that are shared by all content pages. Oh, and not have to run a server myself.

Even more awesome, I’ve since figured out that using jgit I am able to push my git repository to a (separate) S3 bucket and thus any client machine that I install the octopress stack to can be used to edit or create posts on. And even more awesome, cheap micro instanes of EC2 machines can be configured and then, since they are backed in EBS, can be stopped until needed. I swear I’m not trying to advertise for my employer: I’m just really, really impressed with how far computing has come since I was in school.