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December 2004 Archives

December 30, 2004

On vacation

Happy New Year
Splendiferous Solstice
Merry Christmas
Happy Hannukah (earlier this month)
and a truly decadent Saturnalia to you all.

Remember that December is when the grain is in, the beer is brewed from that grain, the animals have been slaughtered in the cold weather, and now there is no farm work to do - so lets keep the dark nights at bay with beer and meat. (well, I will eat pastry instead of drinking beer, a personal choice.)

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Red Ted
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December 28, 2004



I have a cold, the sort of nasty cold that makes me want to be a lump.

It is hitting me during my short stint of free time for writing - it always seems to happen that way.

Anyhow, light blogging because I am a cold-slug and because my energy is going into writing a new final section for chapter 1. I rewrite a lot.

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Red Ted
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December 20, 2004

Hot Milk Cake

I like pastry and baked goods.

I am on a low-saturated-fat diet.

So, I am constantly on the lookout for cakes I can eat.

Lately I have been working on hot milk cake. Below the fold is my most recent attempt. It is getting closer to what I want (I overcooked this one and the outer edge is leathery.)

Hot Milk Cake
modified from King Arthur Baking Guide
as of December 20, 2004 - still working on the method as the latest cake was overcooked.

"Beat me"
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
tsp corn starch
1/8 tsp salt

cup milk (2% is like cream), heated 90 seconds in microwave just before used.
1 tsp flavor du jour

1 cup AP flour (try half AP, half cake)
1 tsp baking powder

"Mis en place"
preheat oven to 325
butter and flour an 8*8 cake pan (or a 9 inch round, go half again as much on everything for a 9*9 square, double everything for 2 9 inch rounds)

sift flour and baking powder together
get milk ready to heat

combine sugar, salt, and corn starch in a large mixing bowl
add the eggs
beat until a thick ribbon (you won't reach OLE but you should get to the O)
(5 on the hand mixer does nicely)

once it is almost at O, heat the milk 90 seconds in microwave
beat the milk into the eggs by very little dribbles - it should take a couple of minutes. You are trying to get the cooking effect of a genoise beaten over hot water, only by adding hot fluid to the eggs, sugar, and air.

Add the flavor. We find straight vanilla boring, almond with a little lemon very tasty, lemon with a little almond also good. J wants me to try anise soon.

Turn the mixer to its lowest (fold) setting.
Sprinkle the flour in a little at a time, and fold into the batter. Again, this should take a couple of minutes.

Once the flour is in and the batter is thick and smooth, pour into prepared cake pan and bake
8*8 is done in about 35 minutes at 325 in our hot oven.

Cool in pan 5 minutes, on rack until toddler demands cake now.

I like to sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. J finds that boring and wants a new hat for the cake. (A cake is not properly dressed unless it has a hat on.)

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Red Ted
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December 17, 2004

Lost or translation?

I am taking a break from grading and writing (one section graded, other has its exam this afternoon) to do a little more work on the reading packet for next semester.

Along the way I had a random thought - if you have partial knowledge of a foreign language, say something like my own knowledge of French where I can read Le Monde and get the gist of the articles but will miss the subtleties and nuances, are you better off reading in translation or struggling with the original?

I ask because the evil angel on my left shoulder thinks that I should have the kids read le declaration des droits des hommes while the good angel on my right shoulder would rather that they read the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

I think the good angel will win this one, if only because if the evil angel won he would want me to follow his policy on the other readings, and my Russian is not good enough to make sure I had a correct copy of "The Overcoat."

Still, it is an interesting question: struggle with the original or read someone else's interpretation of the original. Perhaps I should re-phrase it to "at what level of fluency are you better off reading the original over the translation"? Yes, that captures the crucial middle territory.

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Red Ted
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December 16, 2004

Apple Pie

I was going through the picture directory and I discovered a bit of food pr0n that I had forgotten to blog about back in October.

J's favorite pie is apple pie. I like pie, even though I should not eat the pie crust. So, at least once a year I make her an apple pie in a butter crust. This year's pie is below the fold (64K image).

It was not a good pie - the bits were fine but the combination did not work. The toddler and I made a wonderfully tender crust - too tender to stand up to the apples. We then pulled it from the oven when it was light golden brown, and when the apples were still a little firm. The resulting pie had a wonderful soft tender crust around slightly firm apples - the textures were exactly reversed from what they should be.

Oh, for the record I make the filling by peeling apples, cutting into slices, tossing them with lemon juice, a little flour, and pie spice, and then lay them into the shell in closely nested circles and layers. No jumble-pie for me. When I get it right it is a thick, intensely apple pie with just a little sweet from the lemon juice. Apple pie should be something you can eat for breakfast, not something that sends you into sugar shock.

Behold, the Pie:
a picture of a pie.

Discerning viewers will note the solid log rolling pin to the left of the pie and the salt pig behind the pie (the blue thing with salt in it.) The mason jar holds dried hot peppers. We like hot peppers.

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Red Ted
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December 12, 2004

Another exam question

I don't like this one because it buys into the Presidential synthesis. I like it because it makes the kids argue both bests and worsts.

The first 17 presidents of the United states were: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson. First, rank these in order from best to worst. Second, explain why the person you rank best comes before the second person on the list. Third, explain why the person you rank worst comes after the penultimate person on the list. Note, "chocolate cake" arguments will get an instant 5 point penalty; make sure you discuss at least 4 presidents.
I predict that if I use this, the winners will mostly be: Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Jackson; the losers will mostly be: Buchanon, Tyler, Jackson, and Andrew Johnson.

EDIT - linked to chocolate cake argument

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Red Ted
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River Road Sauce

We call it River Road Sauce because we got the original recipe out of the River Road Cookbook. I forget what that book called it - bachelor's gravy or something like that. This is a VERY quick and easy sauce that we like to serve on steamed brocolli. Measurements are approximate.

Olive oil
hot pepper
dijon mustard (Grey Poupon brown works well, but use what you have)
worcestershire sauce
red or balsamic vinegar

If you are using a real hot pepper, say a dried Thai Dragon, then de-seed and mince the pepper. (Rip the head off, roll the pepper between your fingers, open side down, to remove most of the seeds. Cut open and remove the rest. Chop with a sharp knife.)
Otherwise, just grab the jar of cayenne or hot pepper flakes.

Pour a long tablespoon of olive oil into a non-stick pan. Add the hot pepper if you are using minced pepper or pepper flakes. (If you are using ground cayenne or the like, wait to add it until after the mustard goes in.)
Turn on the heat and heat until the peppers begin to sizzle.
Add a generous dollop of wet mustard. (as much as you can get on a teaspoon.)
Saute the mustard and hot pepper in the oil for a minute or so until the mustard turns a darker shade of yellow brown and begins to separate. It should look horrible - horrible is just right.
Add a dash of Worchestershire sauce - size of dash to vary by taste.
turn down the heat
Add a splash of vinegar, stir until it makes a smooth brown slime.
If it remains separated, either add more vinegar or decide that it is "ugly food" where the worse it looks the better it tastes.
We normally plate it in a side bowl so that we can dip veggies in it without getting hot pepper into the infant's portion. You can also spoon it over a bowl of vegetables for a more elegant presentation.

Quick, easy, and even the toddler likes it.

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Red Ted
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December 08, 2004

Is your blogroll pink or blue?

A week or so ago one of the feminists I read challenged her readers to add up the male and female names on their blogroll. I forgot to mark the post and now can not find it - a bad habit of mine.

While grading I counted men and women on my blogroll as a study break - grade three, add up some names, grade two, crank a tune, and so on.

I noticed a couple of odd things about my blogroll: the academics I read are fairly evenly divided; the pundits I read are largely male; the literature and lifestyle blogs I read are largely female. This matches the standard story about separate blogospheres.

The second odd thing is that group blogs are heavily biased toward men or women, with the academic group blogs being more evenly balanced than the political blogs, but still more heavily male than the singleton academic blogs.

So, looking at the entire blogroll I had 88 men, 53 women, and 4 woodland creatures (bloggers of undetermined gender), so the bloggers I read regularly are about 61% male.

But, that counts the six guys in Begging to Differ as six bloggers. What if I pro-rated group blogs by their gender ratio, so Crooked Timber for example is 13 men and 3 women, or 80% male. If I did that then the blogroll by blog came out to only 57% male, i.e. the blogs I read are about 57% male.

Subgroup statistics below the fold.

p.s. I have my excel spreadsheet available for downloading in case anyone wants to plug their blogroll in and save some time working up their own ratios.

Sure enough, the singleton blogs are about 51% male while my group blogs are 71% male - there are a couple of large boy-bands in my politics section.

Then I went and looked at the sub groups. I divide the blogroll into three ideosyncratic groupings: Academical Villagers; Law, Politics & Punditry; People & Prose. The groupings should be fairly self-explanatory. The only oddity is that I made the executive decision that law professors were more like lawyers than like professors (Law School takes your old brain and issues you a new one, after all).

So, here are percent male for: all in category, singleton blogs, group blogs, pro-rated group blogs for each.

Academical villagers:
all bloggers: 72%
singleton bloggers: 53%
group bloggers: 80%
all blogs (groups pro-rated) 61%

Law, Politics & Punditry:
all bloggers: 62%
singleton bloggers: 65%
group bloggers: 59%
all blogs (groups pro-rated) 72%

People and Prose:
all bloggers: 36%
singleton bloggers: 35%
group bloggers: 50%
all blogs (groups pro-rated) 35%

What do all these numbers mean:

First off, Academical Villagers are more nearly gender balanced than the other groups. My pundits are mostly male, my People and Prose almost as heavily female.

Secondly, People and Prose are more likely to be singleton blogs, while the big group blogs are almost all in Law, Punditry and Politics. Many of the women in this category are the 10 women in

Finally, these are really rough numbers. Halley Suit and Timothy Burke are both double counted, for both have a solo blog and a group blog on the blogroll. My methodology basically ignores the four woodland creatures. I made an arbitrary decision that the bloggers of record were counted, regular guests were not. This means that Amy Sullivan of the Washington Monthly did not get counted - that blog is counted as the sole work of Kevin Drum. Similarly, Sergeant Stryker recently revised their group of bloggers, but their list of bloggers of record still dates to before the change. I used the old list of 3 men and one woman.

These rough numbers were a useful exercise. I learned something about my blog-reading habits.

Oh, I had to choose between recording percent male or percent female. I run this blog with a male identity, so I counted percent male.

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Red Ted
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December 07, 2004

The music meme

I don't think I have posted one of these before. The drill has gone around the blogosphere a few times now: open your e-music utility, set it to random play, list the first ten items that appear.

My iTunes is mighty eclectic. Yep. That's a word for it. (ok, long on folk and on classic pop.)

1) Dońt Slit Your Wrists For Me --- Oysterband
2) Take Her in Your Arms --- Andy M. Stewart; Manus Lunny
3) Rock That Sucker --- Claudia Schmidt
4) Assumpta Est Maria, Antiphon -- Gregorian Chants: Schola de Monjos de Montserrat
5) Themes - I) Sound, II) Second Attention, III) Soul Warrior --- Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe
6) Freight Train -- Mike Seeger
7) I'll be there --- The Jackson 5
8) I Heard It Through The Grapevine --- Ben Harper/The Funk Brothers
9) So Why? --- Carbon Leaf
10) One World --- Dire Straits

Best 2 lyrics to play while I was blogging this:

But it all might have been diff'rent had he seen her in daylight.
She was painted
She was scented
But she drove yon man demented

From Andy M. Stewart


Sex is like a chain gang
There are no volunteers
You could be shackled to a maniac for

Oysterband, "Don't Slit Your Wrists for Me"

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Red Ted
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December 06, 2004

Exam question I might ask

I might just ask this one:

Who would win a steel cage death match between Thomas Jefferson and Catherine Beecher?
OK, between their ideas - Catherine Beecher would beat up TJ in real life, despite being a much smaller person. (She lifted weights; he was shy and afraid of personal confrontations.)

The concept is promising, but the question needs work.


Who would win a steel cage death mathc between the ideas of Catherine Beecher and the ideals of Thomas Jefferson? If you want to, you may write your essay in the form of ringside commentary. Assume that the match was held in 1850.

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Red Ted
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December 04, 2004

Dangerous Web Sites

I found a very dangerous website - the Internet Archive and especially its collection of digitized live performances from taping-friendly bands.

I have been finishing up the paper grading for URU while downloading and listening to all manner of jam bands.

I think I really like Carbon Leaf, and that I might have to catch Railroad Earth in their upcoming Philly show.

Now to grade Suburban State.

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Red Ted
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December 02, 2004

Great American Novel ?

Blogging has been light because I have been wrestling with both insomnia and a big stack of papers to grade. I had the students read Uncle Tom's Cabin and write about that and some of the other primary documents for this semester. While driving the other day I had a semi-random thought inspired by all this lack of sleep and all this UTC.

I asked myself if UTC was the "great American novel" - a question I have asked myself before.

My answer this time surprised me. My answer is below the fold, but before you click on "more blather" ask yourself:
What is the Great 19th-Century American Novel?
What is the Great 20th-Century American Novel?
What is the "Great American Novel"?


And I want your immediate gut responses.

Now click.

My gut answer was that UTC was the Great 19th Century Novel but that Faulkner's As I Lay Dying was the Great American Novel.

In fact, if I were to rate the contenders for the title of Great American Novel, both of the 20th-century entries would be at the head of the pack:

Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
Fitzgerald, Great Gatsby (J's choice)
Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
Twain, Huckleberry Fin

I am not sure what the other plausible contenders are - much I think depends on how you set the criteria for the great national novel.

What surprised me is that I could not tell you which Faulkner novel is As I Lay Dying - as soon as I finish grading I will toddle over to the library, check it out, and read it to see if my gut answer was in any way correct. So my 20th century answer was from the gut, and I could not tell you why, while my 19th-century answer was reasoned through and is something I could talk about at great length - I touch on it on my Reading Log writeup of UTC, but I could go on and point out that UTC is speculative fiction written about an imagined future (check the chronology in the book) while Huck Finn is historical fiction written about an imagined past. The former is often more telling about our anxieties, the latter about our questions.

So, comment away - those of you who read this far. What are your votes, and do your gut and your reason agree with one another?

And so to bed.

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Red Ted
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