Homemade dog treats

The whole world seems to be on a health kick – avoid sodium, no oil, eat organic, skip the preservatives. However when it comes to our four legged friends, we have been splurging on getting them prepackaged snacks. And when I say splurge, I mean splurge… I spend about Rs. 12,000 ($218) a month.

This exercise had a two fold approach for me. Most importantly ensuring the dogs eat healthier, secondly, to save some money.I can use the money to get them more stuff at better quality.

The two snack ideas below use good quality chicken and I know where it came from, rather than having to do guesswork on what off cuts are being fed to my dogs.

Basic oatmeal biscuit

Ingredients (makes about 30)

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (we use a flour which is 10 parts wheat, 1 part soybean, 1 part chickpea flour, but you can use plain whole wheat flour)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup of a chicken stock (You can use stock cubes, but I used a full stock. If you use stock cubes, I suggest cutting down on the salt)

Optionals
Bacon bits, shredded cheese

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 170 degrees centigrade
  • Mix all the ingredients into a dough
  • Knead dough until it forms a ball (approximately 3 minutes)
  • The dough may be a little sticky. Thats ok, but shouldn’t be too sticky
  • Roll out the dough into a cylinder approx 1 cm thick. Use your judgement on size. Make them big or small depending on your dog.
  • Roll the pieces of dough into balls.
  • Press down with a fork
  • Place dough pieces on lightly greased cookie sheet
  • Cook for 30 minutes

The next recipe is for a chicken jerky which is so good, you might keep it for yourself.

Chicken jerky

Ingredients

  • 150 gms skinless chicken breast meat (or thigh meat if you prefer)
  • Oil
  • Salt
  • Herbs – try using herbs which are not very strong e.g.: rosemary, parsley, sage. Choose one.

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degree centigrade
  • Slice the breast into ¼ to ½ inch strips
  • Coat the slices with a little bot of oil, salt and the chosen herbs.
  • Line the strips in a baking tray, but don’t crowd the pieces.
  • Cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
  • The strips should look golden and should be dry when done.

 

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Myntra.com appoints new strategy director

From Medianama.com

Kompalli will be setting up and leading Myntra’s Corporate Strategy and Business Analytics team, which will be responsible for developing Myntra’s overall strategy.

So basically, they had no strategy on doing business so far? This seems to be the unfortunate state of e-commerce startups in India today. Mind you, Myntra is doing some active consolidating recently.

Do caching plugins on WordPress really work?

wordpress-logo-simplified-rgbWordPress is one of the most popular CMS platforms in the world today. Many blogs ( including this one) and journalistic sites run on WordPress. WordPress works by dynamically pulling content from a MySQL database and presenting it to users in a theme.

This dynamic nature is one of WordPress’s greatest strength – as it separates the sites look from the dynamic elements driving the site. However it is also this greatest strength which can cause a popular site to struggle.

As more and more visitors come to a site, the server has to work more, establishing connections to the database for each page called, using up more server resources and generally slowing down the site for new users, thus becoming a problem.

A popular solution for this is the use of a caching plugin. Caching plugins work by creating a static (HTML) version of the page the first time it is called. By keeping this page available for future visitors you can, theoretically, reduce the load on the site. I say theoretically though, because in some load tests I ran last week, I saw that the caches may not work.

I am currently running a self hosted WordPress installation on a Media Temple Grid Server. I am running a light installation of WordPress with 5 plugins. One of these plugins is W3 Total Cache, which is one of the most popular plugins in the WordPress.org plugin repository.

Setting up the plugin however is not as simple as installing it from the WordPress repository. And it is here that I step back to question the necessity of the caching plugin. WordPress is known for its simple 2 minute install, this caching plugin had me spending almost an hour setting it up, and I still wasn’t sure it was done right.

The setup first involved me having to install a PHP caching extension to my server. This had to be compiled from source. Post which I setup the plugin, by reading through (thankfully) copious documentation provided by the plugin author. My first setup was woefully incorrect as it immediately started causing server errors on my site. My backup plugin started taking 15 minutes to zip a 100 mb directory.

Once I had corrected the issues and setup the caching plugin again, I did some tests using a service called Blitz.io. Surprisingly my results were better without the caching plugin activated than with.

Blitz tests called rushes work by rushing a test site with a number of concurrent users over a set of seconds. I ran tests with a rush of 1000 users over 120 seconds.

Without the caching plugin active, I had an average response time (time taken to load first page) of 635 milliseconds, with a 21.37% timeout and a 1.7% error rate. This timeout number had me worried and I was hopeful the cache would run better. However my first run with the cache activated had my response time go up to 913 milliseconds with a 21.7% timeout and a 1.77% error rate. I reset some setting on the cache plugin and my response time went down to 827 milliseconds but my timeout rose to 27%, while error rate was consistent at 7%. The caching plugin was not able to reduce my timeouts and I also saw that the period the caching plugin was enabled, my host was using more resources.

In my view (at least in this current situation) caching should be a function of the hosting provider more than the CMS platform. Hosts like Media Temple, WPEngine and even WordPress.com dedicate a lot of effort to building caching into their products.

For non-technical bloggers who have chosen to have their blogs outside of WordPress.com for access to more themes and plugins, having the host take the responsibility and pain of handling caches is a better idea.

Considering the important nature that caching plays in a content driven site, it may also be considered that the certain basic caching features be built into the WordPress core. By building it into the core as a feature, it would also be easier for non-technically inclined users to use the feature.

Resistance to Change…

For a few years now, I share a story with people as part of my new year greetings.

Every year a lot of us make resolutions – lose weight, quit smoking, take up art, etc. Most of these resolutions are for personal change and that is a good thing. However almost all our resolutions fail as January progresses and we start presenting resistance, – I cannot exercise today, I’m too tired; It was a stressful day, I need a smoke. You know what I mean.

Another aspect of this resistance is an inability to change our way of thinking. Most of us are set in our day-to-day lives and routines; which leaves us blinkered when presented with a different thought or opinion.

Everything mentioned above is Inertia – a resistance to a change in state. Something which many of us need to break out of.

Remember – The more time we spend talking about things that bring us together, the less time we spend on things that bring us apart.

I leave you now with the original story… Have a peaceful and happy 2013.

I flagged the bus, got in, tapped my card on the reader and looked around for an empty seat. There it was, right at the back. I grabbed a pole immediately to steady myself and started making my way towards the empty seat. Very very slowly. Suddenly I had the strange realisation that there actually was no need to grab the pole. Or even to walk that slowly. The bus wasn’t budging. At all. Maybe someone else had flagged it? I turned around, but there was no one. The front door had been closed.

And that’s when I noticed it. The driver was looking at me in his rear view mirror. The bus was still stationary. What had I done? Was he going to holler, “Excuse me, you didn’t tap your card!”? No, I was positive I had tapped my card. What was it then? Had I dropped something? No. Was there another vehicle in front of the bus? No.

Oh wait, had the bus broken down? I got on the bus and it broke down? I looked around guiltily at the people around me. Strangely, they did not seem to be annoyed or even curious about the stalled bus.

I turned around again and the driver still seemed to be following my movements in the mirror. “All right, what is it???? Move already!!!” I wanted to yell. But by then, I had already reached my seat.

The moment I sat down, the driver started the bus.

And that’s when it hit me. He was waiting for me to get to my seat before he started the bus. He didn’t want me to be jolted off my feet and fall flat on the bus floor.

Inertia.

And that’s why no one on the bus was wondering why the bus wasn’t moving. They had all been treated with the same care.

Among all the reasons for the stalling of the bus that had crossed my mind, this one just… wasn’t there. The guy was just being nice.

To me, that was the real jolt.

I raised my hand to thank the driver and he smiled in the mirror and nodded an acknowledgement.

Inertia. Resistance to a change in state. Maybe all of us need a little dose of such incidents. To open up our minds a little more and get rid of the inertia that has made us thus.

I came across the anecdote above, on the internet a few years back, and have not yet been able to find the original author. If someone knows who wrote this please ping me. I would love to be able to accredit this story.