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An online cooking class makes the perfect gift for a home cook. Here are 6 great options

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Not all last-minute gifts are created equal and if you’re still looking for a great gift idea for a foodie, you have options. A is one. Another is one of the that will give them a break from recipe planning and save on trips to the store. Online cooking classes are yet another great option to gift a home chef and they might just be the very best last-minute gift for a foodie.

Who doesn’t love a good experience? But with the pandemic raging, you may not want to get someone an in-person cooking class just yet. This year has seen a spike in the number of online cooking classes and other remote culinary tutorials and experience, and many of these culinary lessons would make a great gift for a hands-on chef looking to go a little deeper. There are online cooking classes for nearly every level of home cook too, so if the person on your list is a full-on beginner in the kitchen looking to learn the basics, there’s a cooking class for them. There are even some geared towards kids. If the person you’re buying for is more on the experienced side, hoping to perfect a béarnaise sauce or beef Wellington, there are loads of cooking classes for seasoned chefs too.

You can also find online cooking classes for just about every cuisine on the planet, wine education and mixology. The internet famously has everything, and that extends to cooking classes: Want to learn to make dim sum or take a class on Indian curries? There are plenty to choose from. More of a baker? There are classes to learn bread baking and others focused on pastry and desserts.

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There are also many different online cooking class formats — some are live and some are prerecorded. Some are held over Zoom and other platforms so you can interact with the instructor and ask questions. These tend to be more expensive, for obvious reasons, but have a fun energy and feel very special. Others like MasterClass and America’s Test Kitchen feature prerecorded lessons and classes to be watched on your own schedule. The benefit of a prerecorded cooking class or tutorial is twofold: You’re able to tap into some of the best cooking talent in the world like Thomas Keller, Alice Waters and Gordon Ramsey. Also, once you buy or subscribe to one of these services with recorded cooking lessons, you’ve got them forever and can easily navigate to specific parts of the class, if and when you ever need a brush-up. 

From celebrity chef-led lessons to cooking classes for kids, these are some of the best online cooking classes to give as gifts in 2020.

MasterClass

If your previous  consumption has left you longing for the opportunity to get screamed at by Gordon Ramsay, MasterClass may be the easiest way to have that dream realized. Not only a cooking resource, MasterClass is a roundup of video tutorials, available for $180 per year for the entire library, which includes dozens of lessons in art, business, music and more. 

On the cooking side, Ramsay’s contemporaries include other legendary chefs such as , Thomas Keller, (of cronut fame) and others. You can even receive instruction in  from Wine Spectator’s  or have walk you through his famous Texas-style BBQ secrets. MasterClass is currently running a holiday sale in which you can snare two year-long memberships to the full library of classes for the price of one ($90 per person).

The Chef and the Dish

The Chef and The Dish will conn,  or . Some classes are as inexpensive as $99, but most others start at around $299 for two people with an additional cost for extra students. You can also expect to pay around $50 or so for groceries and ingredients. 

With so many cooking class options available through the Chef and the Dish, your best bet might be to send a , which you can buy in any amount.

America’s Test Kitchen

America’s Test Kitchen is one of the most respected names in food education. Besides a huge library of cookbooks rooted in the science of cooking, ATK recently broke into the online cooking class category too. That includes the , which is designed for kids as young as 5. The program delivers themed boxes every month along with access to exclusive instructional videos, recipes and other food and cooking activities. The Young Chef’s Club is $25 per month, but gets cheaper if you commit to a six- or 12-month membership.

Rouxbe

Rouxbe is a leading online culinary school and is certified by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation. So, yeah, it’s some serious stuff. Rouxbe offers both individual lessons, but also professional certificate programs, so this would be best for experienced chefs looking to take things to the next level.

Gifting someone a Rouxbe membership makes the most sense and comes in at an affordable $70 for an entire year. With it, you’ll gain access to 75 recorded video lessons, and hundreds of recipes with personalized instructor support. Lessons include those on Knife Cuts & Knife Sharpening, Eggs, Dry-Heat Cooking Methods, How to Make Soup, How to Make Salad Dressing and more.

Chowhound

Udemy’s online cooking courses feature experts delivering lectures on specific food and drink topics such as , PTS Terbaik ASESAN if you’re hoping to put your new  to good use, or  and  for aspiring bakers. Classes are individually priced and most are $20 or $30. Any one of them can be .

The New York Times

The New York Times has one of the best collections of recipes anywhere in the world. What you may not know is it also has an extensive library of cooking tutorials and classes to tap into when you sign up. Cooking is now its own membership separate from the newspaper. A year’s membership costs just $40 (or $5 per month) and includes over 19,000 recipes and hundreds of supplementary videos that’ll walk you through various dishes and cooking techniques from top talent such as Samin Nosrat, Melissa Clark and Yotam Ottolenghi.

Arab Spring: the first smartphone revolution

Egyptians use their mobile phones to record celebrations on February 12, 2011 in Cairo's Tahrir Square

Egyptians use their mobile phones to record celebrations on February 12, 2011 in Cairo’s Tahrir Square

Social media and smartphones briefly gave youthful Arab Spring protesters a technological edge that helped topple ageing dictatorships a decade ago as their revolutionary spirit went viral.

Regimes across North Africa and the Middle East were caught flat-footed as the fervour of the popular uprisings spread at the speed of the internet via Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Unfortunately for the pro-democracy movements, autocratic states have since caught up in the digital arms race, adding cyber surveillance, online censorship and troll armies to their arsenals.

While the so-called Arab Spring offered a brief glimmer of hope for many, it ended with even more repressive regimes in most countries and devastating, ongoing wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen.

"Facebook" is written with stones in Cairo's Tahrir Square on February 6, 2011, the epicenter of anti-regime protests

“Facebook” is written with stones in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on February 6, 2011, the epicenter of anti-regime protests

Nonetheless, say veterans of the period, the revolts mark a watershed moment when digital natives launched the era of “hashtag protests” from Occupy Wall Street to Hong Kong’s Umbrella protests and Black Lives Matter.

Hyper-networked and largely leaderless, such protests flare up like flashmobs, making them harder for authorities to suppress, with grievances and demands decided not by committees but crowd-sourced online.

“Blogs and social networks were not the trigger, but they supported the social movements,” said former Tunisian activist Sami Ben Gharbia, who ran a blog from exile and returned home amid the 2010 uprising.

“They were a formidable weapon of communication.”

The slogans of TV channel "Al-Jazeera" and social media giant "Facebook" are spray-painted at Cairo's Tahrir Square on February 7, 2011

The slogans of TV channel “Al-Jazeera” and social media giant “Facebook” are spray-painted at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on February 7, 2011

Today, say Arab cyber-activists, states have lost much of their control over what citizens can see, know and say, as evidenced by a later wave of protests that rocked Algeria, Sudan, Iraq and Lebanon in 2019 and 2020.

While the heavy lid of state censorship has come down once more in many places, that free spirit has also brought change for the better, especially in the small Mediterranean country where it all started, Tunisia.

– ‘Mass mobile-isation’ –

A protester records with his mobile phone a demonstration in central Tunis on January 19, 2011

A protester records with his mobile phone a demonstration in central Tunis on January 19, 2011

The spark that set off the Arab Spring was the tragic suicide of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi, 26, who, having long been cheated and humiliated by state officials, set himself on fire.

If his desperate act on December 17, 2010 expressed a real-world fury shared by millions, it was the virtual universe of online communications that spread the anger and hope for change like wildfire.

Long simmering discontent among the less privileged was harnessed and multiplied by tech-savvy and often middle-class activists into a mass movement that would spread from Morocco to Iran.

Bouazizi’s self-immolation was not caught on video — but the subsequent street protests were, along with the police violence that aimed to suppress them through fear but instead sparked more anger.

Smartphones with their cameras became citizens’ weapons in the information war that allowed almost everyone to bear witness, and to organise, in a trend that has been dubbed “mass mobile-isation”.

Clips were shared especially on Facebook, PTS Terbaik ASESAN a medium outside the control of police states that had for decades tightly controlled print and broadcast media.

“The role of Facebook was decisive,” recalled a blogger using the name Hamadi Kaloutcha, who had studied in Belgium and back in 2008 launched a Facebook forum called “I have a dream … A democratic Tunisia”.

“Information could be published right under the regime’s nose,” he said.”Censorship was frozen. Either they censored everything that circulated, or they censored nothing.”

Social media and smartphones briefly gave youthful Arab Spring protesters a technological edge against ageing dictatorships

Social media and smartphones briefly gave youthful Arab Spring protesters a technological edge against ageing dictatorships

If previously dissent could only be whispered, some of the citizens’ fear and apathy lifted as online users saw their networks of family and friends speak out in the virtual space.

Online platforms also formed a bridge with traditional global media, further accelerating the regional revolt.

“International media like Al-Jazeera covered the uprising directly from Facebook,” Kaloutcha said.

“We had no other platform to broadcast videos.”

With head-spinning speed, Tunisia’s ruler of more than two decades, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was gone in less than a month.

“Thank you Facebook,” read one graffiti sprayed on Tunisian walls, long before the social media giant drew increasing fire for spreading not just calls for freedom but also fake news and hate speech.

– ‘The camera is my weapon’ –

An Egyptian demonstrator uses his mobile phone to take a picture of a burnt army tank during clashes in central Cairo on January 29, 2011

An Egyptian demonstrator uses his mobile phone to take a picture of a burnt army tank during clashes in central Cairo on January 29, 2011

The Tunisia victory would soon kick off a political earthquake in North Africa’s powerhouse Egypt.

A key catalyst there to mobilise and organise protests was the Facebook campaign “We are all Khaled Said”, or “WAAKS”, which highlighted rampant police brutality and widespread corruption.

Said, 28, died in police custody in June 2010.Photos of his battered corpse went viral online while authorities unconvincingly claimed he had choked on a bag of drugs.

The WAAKS campaign brought hundreds to his funeral, followed by a series of silent protests.

By early 2011, the Egyptian revolt had gathered steam, and the movement snowballed into anti-government protests on January 25, the National Police Day.

WAAKS at the time encouraged citizen journalism with the video tutorial “The camera is my weapon”.

Powerful online images surfaced including one of a man facing off with an armoured water cannon, echoing the iconic image of an unknown Chinese protester who in 1989 defied a column of tanks on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Regimes across North Africa and the Middle East were caught flat-footed a decade ago as the fervour of the popular uprisings spread at the speed of the internet

Regimes across North Africa and the Middle East were caught flat-footed a decade ago as the fervour of the popular uprisings spread at the speed of the internet

Volunteers translated Arabic tweets for the international media, even as state broadcasters railed against the “criminals” and “foreign enemies” it blamed for instigating the protests.

Anonymous movement hackers showed solidarity by distributing advice on how to breach state firewalls and set up mirror websites.

On January 28, 2011, the “Friday of Rage”, the government ordered an internet blackout and blocked cell phone services, but it was too late.

A critical mass was already reached, and more youngsters left their screens to join the offline action on the streets.

At the height of the protests, up to one million Egyptians were demanding Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.He finally agreed to step down on February 11, ending a rule of nearly three decades.

– Virtual battlegrounds –

If the phrase “Arab Spring” echoed the romantic hopes for freedom of the 1968 Prague Spring, it ended as tragically as that brief uprising crushed by Soviet tanks.

An Egyptian holds up a sign praising Facebook in 2011 on Cairo's Tahrir Square, heeding a call by the opposition for a "march of a million" calling for the ouster of Hosni Mubarak

An Egyptian holds up a sign praising Facebook in 2011 on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, heeding a call by the opposition for a “march of a million” calling for the ouster of Hosni Mubarak

Arab states have quickly caught up with their own cyber tools, weaponising social media and cracking down hard on online activists.

“The authorities reacted quickly to control this strategic space,” said former Moroccan activist Nizar Bennamate, then with the February 20th protest movement.

Activists, he said, became “victims of defamation, insults and threats on social networks and some online media”.

A decade later, Amnesty International charged, Morocco has used smartphone hacking software to spy on journalist and rights activist Omar Radi, before detaining him on rape and espionage charges.

A computer screen shows tweets posted by users on January 14, 2011 about the situation in Tunisia

A computer screen shows tweets posted by users on January 14, 2011 about the situation in Tunisia

In Egypt, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government has crushed almost all dissent, blocked hundreds of websites and jailed social media users, including even teenage influencers on the short video app TikTok.

Takeovers of publishing and TV companies by regime insiders has “led to the death of pluralism in the media landscape,” said Sabrina Bennoui of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

“We called this movement the ‘Sisification’ of the media.”

Gulf countries, meanwhile, have used the Covid-19 pandemic “as a pretext to continue pre-existing patterns of suppressing the right to freedom of expression,” Amnesty has charged.

As conflicts are fought increasingly in the virtual space, the standoff between a Saudi-led group of Gulf countries and Qatar has seen the use of bot armies to attack each other.

In Libya’s war, fought with drones and mercenaries, UN mediators recently urged both sides not just to lay down their weapons but also to refrain from the use of online “hate speech and incitement to violence”.

An image from a propaganda video released on March 17, 2014 by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group's al-Furqan Media

An image from a propaganda video released on March 17, 2014 by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group’s al-Furqan Media

Social media has also been used to great effect by non-state actors such as the Islamic State jihadist group, which employed it as a powerful weapon for propaganda and recruitment.

“The tools that catalysed the Arab Spring, we’ve learned, are only as good or as bad as those who use them,” said a commentary in Wired magazine.

“And as it turns out, bad people are also very good at social media.”

– ‘Dream come true’ –

Today, as most Arab countries linger near the murky bottom of RSF’s Global Press Freedom Index, the one place that offers a glimmer of hope is Tunisia, the tiny country where it all started.

Though battered by poverty and now the pandemic, it boasts a long secular tradition, a fragile democracy and relative freedom of speech in a region dominated by totalitarian regimes.

Tunisian journalist Sami Ben Gharbia, once a refugee who  ran the Nawaat blog from the Netherlands, at the office of the now fully fledged Nawaat media outlet

Tunisian journalist Sami Ben Gharbia, once a refugee who ran the Nawaat blog from the Netherlands, at the office of the now fully fledged Nawaat media outlet

Nawaat, once one of the major dissident blogs subject to state censorship, is now a fully fledged media outlet that runs both opinion and investigative pieces, with a website and a printed magazine.

It has produced several documentaries on environmental and social justice issues and interviewed former prime minister Elyes Fakhfakh earlier this year.

Gharbia, once a refugee who had fled the Ben Ali regime and ran the Nawaat blog from the Netherlands from 2004 to 2011, is now proud to be a force in the country’s media landscape.

“There was a big debate after the fall of Ben Ali,” he said.”Had we reached our goal, should we continue and in what form?

Nawaat, once one of the major dissident blogs subject to state censorship, is now a fully fledged media outlet

Nawaat, once one of the major dissident blogs subject to state censorship, is now a fully fledged media outlet

“After a transition, in 2013, we decided to professionalise the editorial staff, to produce independent quality information, which is still lacking today in Tunisia”.

One recent day he was running a lively editorial meeting during which journalists discussed which political parties to investigate next.

“Having offices and a team of journalists working freely in the field was a dream 10 years ago,” he said.

“That dream has come true.”

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3 years ago

Google app lets people use their eyes to select phrases

has launched a new smartphone app for people with speech and motor impairments that lets them use their eyes to select phrases on the screen.

The new app, called Look to Speak, tracks the user’s eye movement to narrow down the desired phrase from a list, which is then spoken aloud by an automated voice. 

Look to Speak uses eye gaze tracking technology and works when the front-facing camera on the smartphone has a clear view of the user’s eyes. 

It’s designed for people with speech and motor impairments to communicate with others, although all Android smartphone users can use it.  

Look to Speak is available now for Android users and is compatible with Android 9.0 and above, including Android One. 

The launch of the new app come after tech rivals Apple and Amazon in the UK to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3. 

Look to Speak is an Android app which enables people to use their eyes to select pre-written phrases and have them spoken aloud.

Look to Speak is an Android app which enables people to use their eyes to select pre-written phrases and have them spoken aloud.

Look to Speak has been detailed on the Google website by Richard Cave, a British speech and language therapist who worked on the app. 

‘Eye gaze technology helps people type messages on a communication device and share them using eye movement alone,’ he said.

‘With the app, people simply have to look left, right or up to quickly select what they want to say from a list of phrases.

‘Now conversations can more easily happen where before there might have been silence.’  

Look to Speak requires users to pick the phrase they want by either looking immediately left or right of the smartphone screen, while keeping their head still. 

It is important for users to look off-screen as opposed to just the left or right of the smartphone screen to help the technology decipher eye gaze. 

Google says: ‘It’s not enough to just look at the edges of the screen. 

‘Looking off screen will take some practice, especially if they are familiar with other eye gaze systems where actions are performed by looking on screen.’ 

Users need to look away from the device to trigger actions. Google says: 'It's not enough to just look at the edges of the screen

Users need to look away from the device to trigger actions.Google says: ‘It’s not enough to just look at the edges of the screen

‘Place the device in front of the user’s face, slightly below eye level, to give the camera a better chance of seeing their eyes clearly.’ 

The app interface displays a list of 16 phrases spread over two columns – half of them on the left column and the other half on the right. 

Each available phrase is listed in either one of the two columns.

As an example, the user may want to app to utter the phrase ‘how are you?’, which may be listed in the right column.

Users would need to look right to let the app know that the phrase they want is on the right and not on the left.

At this point, Look to Speak would disregard the phrases that were listed on the left.

It will then reorganise the remaining eight options so that they’re once again equally split up in the two columns. 

Users just need to repeat the process until ‘how are you?’ is the last option left. 

At any point, users can look up to cancel and start the process again or snooze and continue the process later.  

The user can snooze the app by looking up. A sequence of gazes is required to activate it again

The user can snooze the app by looking up.A sequence of gazes is required to activate it again

The app is not completely controllable with the eyes, however – someone has to tap the screen to access the menu and its various options. 

Therefore, if someone using the app has a motor impairment that prevents them from using their hands, they would need someone to assist them to access the menu options.

Menu options include settings, where users can tweak eye gaze sensitivity, practice screen, PTS Terbaik ASESAN screen tutorial and edit phrasebook.

Edit phrasebook allows users to personalise the words and phrases that appear on-screen and helps ‘people share their authentic voice’, Cave said. 

All of the data is private and never leaves the phone, Cave added. 

Look to Speak comes under the tech giant’s open-source ‘Experiments with Google’ platform – an online showroom of web browser based experiments, interactive programs, and artistic projects. 

Amazon's feature, Show and Tell, helps blind and partially sighted people identify common household grocery items

Amazon’s feature, Show and Tell, helps blind and partially sighted people identify common household grocery items

This new app comes the week after both Apple and Amazon released features aimed to help people with impaired vision for people in the UK. 

Amazon’s new tool, called Show and Tell, helps blind and partially sighted people identify common household grocery items. 

The feature works with Amazon’s Echo Show range – devices that combine a camera and a screen with a smart speaker that’s powered by its digital assistant Alexa. 

Apple, meanwhile, redesigned its dedicated accessibility site to make it easier for iPhone and iPad owners to find vision, hearing and mobility tools for everyday life. 

These include People Detection, which uses the iPhone’s built-in LiDAR scanner to prevent blind users colliding with other people or objects.