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Archive for Food

Help me write my job description

A few weeks ago I joined the IA Institute board of directors. At the IAI, you run to be part of the board and later the specific roles and responsibilities are defined (first electing a president, a treasurer and a secretary to satisfy our non-profit legal requirements, then assigning particular responsibilities to the other directors).

When we first started discussing roles, my main desire was to become the IAI Ombudsman. Having ran for the board on a platform of transparency, I thought the Ombudsman role would be a good way to introduce an initiative-agnostic role that remained 100% accessible to the membership and was able to directly respond to their needs.

Regardless of my desire to play the role of an open channel of communication that helps things get addressed, someone needed to take on the oversight of the Institute’s IT and Membership (which is corresponds to customer service, tech ops, and all systems). I volunteered to take these on because they seemed to be the most related to the things I wanted to do as an Ombudsman.

A problem became apparent to me right away: an Ombudsman, by definition, is supposed to be independent, neutral and impartial to do their job well. From the IAO Standards of Practice:

1.1 The Ombudsman Office and the Ombudsman are independent from other organizational entities.
1.2 The Ombudsman holds no other position within the organization which might compromise independence.

I have been trying to reconcile how I could play the Ombudsman role while being the director responsible for infrastructure oversight and the reality is that it’s just incompatible. Having spent the past few weeks learning about how the Institute runs, what the various systems are, who does what and what is currently understood as needs of the membership, it was not a big leap to figure out I needed to re-frame my role.

I thought lots about whether I should withdraw from the board so I could become the Ombudsman, but seeing where the current infrastructure is today, I think being the director of infrastructure is a better match for me and for the Institute *right now*. To address my concerns on the Institute’s transparency and foster a culture of openness, communication and accountability, we need systems and tools that support people working that way.

I know I have the right skills to lead that charge (as I design systems for a living) and I am interested in the kinds of infrastructure issues the Institute has today (more on that in a future post). There is plenty of work to do so I decided to write a job description to help me focus the time and energy I’m volunteering and so anyone knows how to use that time and energy. Please help me refine!

Director of Infrastructure

The director of infrastructure is responsible for overseeing the planning and development of systems and technologies needed to support and maintain the services and initiatives associated with the Information Architecture Institute.

Key responsibilities

  • Evaluate the short and long-term value and impact of technology decisions.
  • (When someone chooses to deploy a CMS, create a new feature or tweak existing services, I should be able to assess how this affects our overall infrastructure in terms of technology, cost and effort, and help them make the right choices).

  • Ensure infrastructure projects are properly managed and executed
  • (When we need to do something that contributes to the Institute’s infrastructure, I need to make sure projects have a clear purpose and sufficient resources to succeed, in addition to support and encourage contributors to move things along).

  • Keep the Institute and members abreast of infrastructure improvement plans
  • (During my time in this role, I need to involve institute members and keep them informed about what’s going on and set expectations about the direction things are going to ensure it’s in line with what everyone needs.)

  • Assess the infrastructure wants and needs of new initiatives
  • (When a new project comes around, I should offer advice and guidance so project champions are aware of what’s available to them and what they can build on)

  • Direct the Institute’s resources towards the highest value opportunities
  • (To get things done, I need to be mindful of the cost and benefit of utilizing our staff versus reaching out to the community for help and support)

  • Assess the organization’s ability to maintain core systems operational
  • (Evaluate, on an ongoing basis, how well the Institute can maintain it’s various services and advise the board of directors on areas of opportunity and risk)

  • Ensure a smooth role transition to the next director of infrastructure in office
  • (By the time I’m done with my term on the board of directors, I will have a transition plan for the next person who will take this role to ensure quality knowledge transfer and continuity of permanent efforts)

    My goal is that my platform of transparency, vision and empowerment is well translated in the openness, communication and accountability of this role. Any thoughts, edits and additions much appreciated.

    Liv’s No-Fuss Brisket

    I’m thinking that a popular sentence in blogs is “I haven’t posted anything in ages” (or some variant). Actually, Google tells me “I haven’t posted” occurs 1,160,000 times. It doesn’t imply we are all procrastinators, just that we feel guilty for not posting when we get back to doing it. Silliness.

    I’ve been buying a house and working hard so I decided blogging was not a priority right now. I will make it a priority again after I move into my lovely new place (next week) and things start to settle down. Meanwhile, I’m sharing my brisket recipe because yesterday I cooked the most delicious brisket I have every a) cooked and b) eaten.

    I don’t cook with recipes and don’t like following instructions so consider these ‘guidelines’ for a yummy saucy brisket. Be creative!

    Liv’s No-Fuss Brisket

    Effort: 15 minutes preparing, ~3 hours cooking (unattended)


    • 1 3lb Thin Cut Brisket (check this if you don’t know the difference between brisket cuts)
    • 2 large white onions
    • 2 tablets of beef bouillon
    • 5 table spoons of Dijon Mustard (I recommend Maille)
    • 2 tea spoons of powdered cumin
    • 1/4 cup sea salt
    • your preferred spices


    Wash and clean the fat off the brisket. Recipes usually recommend leaving some fat on the brisket to add to the flavor and prevent it from drying. I agree with that but my tip is that it is hard enough to take it all off, so the amount you can’t remove will be more than enough to keep the fat flavoring you need. Poke holes with the tip of your knife on both sides so it can absorb the juices well.

    Slice two onions (0.5cm – 1/6 in slices) and place as much of it as you can fit at the bottom of your baking pan. Coat it with powdered cumin. Grab a handful of sea salt and rub all around the brisket. If you’re a fan of garlic, stick whole cloves into the holes you poked (don’t overdo it, use no more than 3-4 cloves for 1 lb of beef). Place the brisket in the baking pan over the onions.

    Pre-heat the oven at 450F – 230C.

    In a separate dish, dissolve 2 tablets of beef bouillon into 1.5 cups of hot water. I prefer Carne-de-sol bouillon, but that’s not easy to find outside Brazil. Beef will do just fine (that’s what I used last night) and you can use other bouillons to vary flavor. Add 4-5 table spoons of Dijon mustard and mix until it’s uniform.

    Coat the brisket in the pan with the sauce and add any spices you like – I recommend some more cumin, freshly grated white pepper and a few bay leaves, but I believe people should spice their dishes with their preferred spices, specially when they are cooking hearty comfort-food meals. Don’t add more salt, remember you have sea-salt and concentrated beef bouillon in there!

    Place the remainder of onions on top of the brisket and wrap the pan in aluminum foil. Make sure it’s tightly sealed and place it in the oven, bringing it up to 500F – 260C. Leave it alone for 1 hour then bring it down to 350F – 175C for another 2 hours.

    Go do something while it cooks otherwise you will be tempted to open to see how it’s going. Resist the temptation. While you wait I recommend making plain white rice to have with the brisket or a simple couscous with parmesan cheese and/or pine nuts.

    After all the cooking is done, remove the aluminum foil and coat the brisket to make sure it’s moist. Bring the oven up to 500F – 260C and let it bake uncovered for 15 minutes – this allows the sauce to thicken. You might want to slice it to serve – if you’re cooking for the week (as I am) I prefer not to so it doesn’t dry up) – otherwise, it’s ready to serve.

    The meat should be so soft you won’t need a knife. It literally melts in your mouth. If you try this, please leave a comment and let me know how it turned out.

    My kingdom for a sfiha

    It is rare for me to crave for specific types of food that I can’t get, but today I’ve been dying for sfihas. Back in Sao Paulo, I could get one 24-7, thanks to Habib’s, now I can only wish (I know I’m not competent to replicate what I want in my kitchen. I’ve tried and became even more disappointed).

    I walked around town and searched for it online and I couldn’t find a single place in Philadelphia or surrounding areas that serves sfihas. Does anybody know where I can find Sfihas? If you don’t know what they are, they are delicious little circles of dough topped with a mixture of ground beef, onions, tomatoes and mint. When they come out of the oven you can smell them a mile away and in Brazil, it’s costumary to squeeze some lime juice on top, which makes perfect, devine.

    My mouth is watering. I’m seriously considering driving up to DC tomorrow…

    On a side note, I resolved my problem with videos stuck in my camera with a SanDisk Imagemate 5-in-1 card reader. You can check the videos I’m gradually uploading on You Tube.