February 2005
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February 2005 Archives

February 27, 2005

Better seen than described.

This is a mighty impressive flash video.

Safe for work, unless your supervisor gets upset when your eyes bug out of their sockets in amazement.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 08:16 PM | TrackBack
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February 26, 2005

Toddler bread

I would not have tried this combination on my own, but the bigger man was acting as foreman yesterday. So, we call this toddler bread.

1 cup plus one ounce water
2 cups bread flour
1 cup WW flour
˝ cup yellow cornmeal
1 egg
1 ˝ tsp yeast
scant tsp salt
long tbsp honey

Detailed narrative (cute but long and self-indulgent) after the fold.

Do you want to help daddy make bread?


OK, up on the counter with you.

Lets see, what do we want to put in the bread today.
[goes into refrigerator, grabs sourdough crock.]

No want daddy sourdough.

You don't want the sourdough in the bread?

No want daddy sourdough!

OK, lets put it back. What do you want in the bread?

No want daddy sourdough!

I know, it is already put away. Bread has flour water salt and yeast. Lets see, we are out of salt. Lets refill that first.

[Goes into cupboard, grabs box of kosher salt to refill the salt pig. Bag of cornmeal falls out of cupboard and onto counter next to toddler.]

OK, we have more salt. Now lets make bread. Bread is flour, water, yeast and salt. What flour do you want?

Want yellow powder [pointing to bag of cornmeal]

Yellow powder? Do you want cornmeal?

No want cornmeal. Want yellow powder.

The yellow powder IS cornmeal. We make it by taking corn, drying it, and grinding it up. Do you want it in the bread?


OK, lets put in half a cup of cornmeal. Does that sound right?


Do you want to measure?

No. Daddy measure.

[˝ cup of cornmeal goes into the bread machine bucket.]

Now what other flour do we want? Do you want brown flour?


[1 cup of whole wheat flour goes into the bread machine bucket.]

Lets add some white flour, OK?

[2 cups of bread flour go into the bread machine bucket.]

That is the flour. Bread is flour, water yeast, and salt. Lets put the yeast in.

[go to freezer, get mason jar of yeast.]

No want daddy sourdough!

This isn't sourdough. This is the yeast. We need yeast to make bread.


Lets see, ˝ tsp per cup of flour, lets call it 3 cups of flour, so 1 and ˝ tsp yeast.

[Yeast goes in the bread machine bucket.]

Now the salt, 1/4 tsp per cup of flour. Lets call it a scant teaspoon. Do you want to dump it in?


[1 scant tsp kosher salt goes into the bread.]

Do you want anything else in the bread? Eggs, oil?

Want egg.

OK, [one egg goes into the bread machine.]

Do you want any oil in the bread?

No want oil.

How about honey?

Want honey.

Do you want to squeeze the honey bottle?


About 2 tbsp honey gets squeezed into the bread machine

Do you want anything else?


OK, lets add the water. Hmm, 1/3 cup per cup of flour. So we need 1 1/6 cups of water. Lets put in a cup plus an ounce. Does that sound right?


[Water goes into bread machine]

Flour, water, yeast, salt. We have bread. We put in egg and honey. Do you want anything else in your bread?


Do you want to push the button?


[toddler gets carried from the work counter to the bread machine counter. Bread bucket gets carried from the work counter to the bread machine counter. Bread machine gets pulled forward. Bucket goes in. Daddy sets it up for a 2 pound loaf, medium crust, long rises.]

Are you ready to push the green button.


And the toddler made a loaf of bread.

Posted by
Red Ted
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February 22, 2005

Giving the cat an enema

There is nothing that is quite like giving the cat an enema.

That is all.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 08:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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February 21, 2005

Grading with the Wiggles

It is paper grading time here at the house of RedTed. It is also daddy-day-care time. I can combine these two moments by putting on a kids video and letting the boys watch it while I struggle through a couple of student works. I call this Grading with The Wiggles, and it works fairly well.

Except, of course, for the inevitable earbugs. For the last two days I have had "yummy yummy / fruit salad" stuck in my head.

I am getting ready to eat a steak in self defense.

Posted by
Red Ted
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February 17, 2005

Octidi, 28 Pluviôse CCXIII

Today is Octidi, 28 Pluviôse CCXIII according to this handy French Revolutionary Calendar utility. For more on the calendar, see this discussion, including the day-names and leap years.

Why yes, we are going to be talking about Jacobins and Robespierre today. I like teaching the French Revolution.

I intend to write the day's date at the top of the online outline and use it as a springboard into the Jacobin attempt to remake society, remake tradition, and build a new world and a new civil religion as part of building a new republic and a better future.

If only I remembered enough French to feel confident teaching the class in that language. But my accent sucks and my vocabulary is almost as bad.

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Red Ted
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February 16, 2005

South Park Ted

Via planearium2.de and their South Park Character Generator I give you Red Ted in the classroom.

(below the fold sillies)

Red Ted as a Southpark Character

Posted by
Red Ted
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Cultural Literacy

I got two hours of sleep Monday night. Tuesday's class was goofy.

At various points during the French Revolution I referred both to Casablanca and Johnny Cash. The first was trying to remind them that the Marseillaise is the French National Anthem. The second was in reference to the politics of right and left.

Four out of seventy admitted to having ever seen Casablanca, none admitted to Johnny Cash. I might just bring the lyrics to "The One on the Right, Was On the Left" with me tomorrow.

Lyrics below the fold.

Oh, I got about six hours of sleep last night, from 9:30 to about 4:00 when the toddler got me up. No wonder I am being easily distractible today.

EDIT - I just printed out the English lyrics to the Marseillaise for the kids tomorrow. I knew they were bloody, but my goodness!

"The One On The Right Is On The Left"

There once was a musical troupe
A pickin' singin' folk group
They sang the mountain ballads
And the folk songs of our land

They were long on musical ability
Folks thought they would go far
But political incompatibility led to their downfall

Well, the one on the right was on the left
And the one in the middle was on the right
And the one on the left was in the middle
And the guy in the rear was a Methodist

This musical aggregation toured the entire nation
Singing the traditional ballads
And the folk songs of our land
They performed with great virtuosity
And soon they were the rage
But political animosity prevailed upon the stage

Well, the one on the right was on the left
And the one in the middle was on the right
And the one on the left was in the middle
And the guy in the rear burned his driver's license

Well the curtain had ascended
A hush fell on the crowd
As thousands there were gathered to hear The folk songs of our land
But they took their politics seriously
And that night at the concert hall
As the audience watched deliriously
They had a free-for-all

Well, the one on the right was on the bottom
And the one in the middle was on the top
And the one on the left got a broken arm
And the guy in the rear, said, "Oh dear"

Now this should be a lesson if you plan to start a folk group
Don't go mixin' politics with the folk songs of our land
Just work on harmony and diction
Play your banjo well
And if you have political convictions keep them to yourself

Now, the one on the left works in a bank
And the one in the middle drives a truck
The one on the right's an all-night deejay
And the guy in the rear got drafted

Posted by
Red Ted
at 01:38 PM | TrackBack
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While reading about civil religion and Richard Nixon's public theology, and thinking about the role of civil religion in 2005 (ribbons on the backs of cars like ashes on Ash Wednesday? Perhaps.) I had a disturbing random thought.

Who would win a steel cage death match between Richard M. Nixon and George W. Bush?
The sad thing is, I think I would root for Tricky Dicky. I have a soft spot for Cold War Liberals.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 10:12 AM | TrackBack
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Monty Haul fiction

I was starting to catch up on January's reading over on the reading blog - so far I am through Jan 2 - and I had a random bookish thought that belongs over here.

Old-school gamers should be familiar with the phrase Monty Haul. It refers to a style of pencil-and-paper gaming where the game master hands out vast quantities of cool toys, the characters are hugely powerful, and the game consists of, basically, a batch of thugs in chainmail and magical artillery knocking on the front doors of "evil" critters, killing them, and taking even more cool toys.

As a game-master I always had to struggle against my inner Monty Haul - it is fun to give a neat thing to the characters. The trouble is, they keep it and continue to use it.

The same pattern appears in some light fiction, especially the various flavors of wish-fulfillment fiction, hackery, space opera, and, well, light entertainment. Gee, says the author, it would be neat if I could give my character this, or that. Let the poor policeman marry a rich girl with a high libido. Give the starship captain a telepathic connection to her pet cat. And so on.

The problem comes because light fiction, like Hollywood movies, tends to be written until the next one is projected to lose money. While not all authors in this genre are as, well, hackish as Piers Anthony or Bill Butterfield (Anthony writes two novels a year, and never writes a book he has not already sold. The last few volumes in his various pentologies tend to get mailed in. Butterfiel - W.E.B. Griffiths is his best byline - has half a dozen identities, has written over a hundred books with a couple of repetitive scenes and themes, and has been known to have one alias write cover blurbs for his other aliases. Both are nice guys, and I like their stuff, but it is hackery. Back to the topic.) While not all authors in this genre are as, well, hackish as Anthony and Butterfield, still there is a tendency for space opera, technothrillers, mysteries, and the like to be written for the market. If you write for a living, make sure you get paid for what you write.

I was reminded of the Monty Haul fiction problem while reading Elizabeth Moon's Marque and Reprisal - a very good space opera in which the heroine ends the book with a heck of a lot of cool toys. If Moon intends to do more with the character, she will either have to take away some of those toys or revamp the, well, power-level of her universe and its challenges so that things are once again a trouble for her heroine. I suspect she will handle the problem well - she is a very competant wordsmith - but she has given herself a Monty Haul problem.

I stopped reading Butterfield, despite liking the things he wrote as W.E.B. Griffiths, because I got tired of reading the same Monty Haul scenario again and again and again. Still, I am unusual - I read a lot, including a lot of dreck, and I remember and think about what I read.

And so to go read the sociology of religion. The joys of doing a literature review are myriad.

Posted by
Red Ted
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February 15, 2005

Some Weeks are too Easy . . .

Some Weeks are too Easy, and
Some Weeks are too Hard
And the Weeks that lead to papers
Leave the Students working hard
Just ask thesekids,
When their brains are charred

(apologies to Grace Slick)

Last week's assignment for the students was too easy. This week's work is too hard. I planned it that way, but it does not quite even out.

When I ordered books I decided that I did not have time to make a reader, that I really wanted to talk about Edmund Burke, and so I told the bookstore to fetch me Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, Tom Paine's Rights of Man, and Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front.. All are on the list of a dozen or so books that are always assigned to Western Civ. There are traditions to be maintained after all.

Then, while putting the syllabus together, I decided that I would go crazy without a steady diet of primary documents. So, I went ahead and made an electronic reader. It will need tweaking for next year, but it works fairly well.

Last week, the electronic reader consisted of two pictures, Beer Street and Gin Lane, and the assignment to write 200 words on "Why is Beer better than Gin?" for 1% of their total grade. I got a lot of pretty good answers, including the funny-but-true anachronism "because beer pong is better than gin pong."

This week they have to write me six to eight pages on Burke, Paine I and II, and Liberty, for 20% of their total grade. I expect some train wrecks. In fact, last week it became so clear that the kids were just not able to read Burke - something I had picked because I thought it was a nice easy read - that I broke my rule and talked about a reading before the kids wrote about it. I know that I will get a good fifty papers that simply repeat what I said in class. But a good twenty of those would have been total train wrecks without the help. I still expect to be reading Casey Jones this weekend, but the pileup should be smaller.

It appears that Burke is only easy if you:
- are used to reading long rambling arguments
- are comfortable with 18th and 19th century prose
- are familiar with discussions of liberty and the state
- like early modern political theory
- are familiar with Stuart England and quickly grasp the examples that Burke presents
- know the basics of the French revolution
- and can consider 100,000 words a short work.

The students qualify on none of these - even the smart kids were all at sea.

I think that next year I will have to pick between the electronic reader and the long Burke and Paine. In the US survey I have already decided to drop the monograph in favor of the reader and a novel (Uncle Tom's Cabin for the first half, The Autobiography of Malcolm X for the second half.) I suspect that the Ed and Tom show will not go into reruns at this particular institution.

Still, the two rough drafts that have come in so far show some promise . . .

Hope is not eternal; it lasts until you read the third student paper in the stack.

Posted by
Red Ted
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Good relationship points

The boys and I scored good husband points on Valentine's Day

I was doing daddy day care on Monday. Around 10:00 we bundled into the car to run errands. Our first stop was the corner florist, where I got a dozen roses and the one-year-old, whose birthday is February 13, got a single rose.

From there we went to J's office. The toddler squawked as we were talking to the receptionist, and heads poked out of doors all along the front hallway to see what a crying child was doing in an engineering firm. Folks were rewarded by the sight of a toddler carefully carrying a plastic case with a single rose, and dad lugging the one-year-old (dressed all in red) and another dozen roses wrapped in paper.

It worked - we surprised J and made her happy.

It also worked - J. got serious husband-envy points from her co-workers.

And, we had fun doing it.

Next year the littler man will be two years old for Valentines day, and will have to give her two roses.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 01:35 AM | TrackBack
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February 08, 2005

Staring at George

On Monday I ran up to Princeton to do some research. It was my first time using Princeton University's rare books room, and I had a good trip. I read six books, took notes, and was able to thicken my research.

The reason I wanted to blog the trip is that the reading room in Firestone Library is a great big space with great big windows. Hanging over the door is a huge - it looked to be 8 feet tall - Charles Wilson Peale portrait of George Washington. It is a great picture.

So, there I was, frantically typing away on my laptop as I summarized the debates of various state constitutional conventions (New York 1846 went from not-in-the-dissertation to an expected three pages). Every time I wanted to take a break, I looked up at George. George looked down on us all, although I think he was a little fonder of the woman next to me who was working with a beautifully illustrated medieval book. (Later I told her I was jealous because her book had better pictures. She told me she was amazed at how fast I typed - transcribing 19th century political debate goes fast, especially because I trust myself to fix the spelling later.) Then I went from admiring George back to writing up debates and trying to make sure that I had remembered to type the commas that the 1780 Massachusetts convention seemed to use every third or fourth word.

This is starting to ramble. I just wanted to comment that the really cool thing about doing history is that you find yourself in a situation where, just going about your business, you get to look up and admire one of the more famous pictures of George.

Oh, and if you look carefully at that picture you will see that George, who was admired in his day for being a well built man with an attractive body, comes from the pre-steroid and pre-weightlifting era of strong torsos and small arms. There is a marked difference in physical types, a change that has really kicked in quite recently, say since the 1980s.

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Red Ted
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February 05, 2005

Challah like Henry V

In Shakespeare's Henry V Part II there is a moment where his honey asks Henry why he hates France so much that he makes war on it. He answers, in effect, that he makes war not because he hates France but because he loves it so much that he wants to make it all his own.

I just ate half a loaf of this challah with notbutter and honey for second breakfast. I felt like Henry V.

p.s. The sourdough is there as a bread conditioner. It gives a creamy texture. Our sourdough provides very little sourdough flavor, especially in a bread that is leavened fairly quickly by other yeast.

The dough:
1 cup sourdough starter (contains 1 cup AP flour, ˝ cup water, and the leavening equivalent of ˝ tsp yeast.)
3 eggs
the white of a 4th egg
1/4 cup oil
2 tbsp sugar
cold water
1 ˝ tsp salt
2 ˝ tsp yeast
1 ˝ cups WW flour
3 ˝ cups bread flour

The wash:
1 egg yolk
splash of cold water

2-cup wet measuring cup
assorted dry measures
mixmaster with dough hook
baking tiles
baking peel

crack 3 eggs into the measuring cup
separate the 4th egg and put the white into the measuring cup. Save the yolk for later.
Use water to fill the measuring cup until the egg and water mixture is 1 ˝ cups of fluid.
Add 1/4 cup light olive oil

From there, use the mixmaster to make standard double risen bread dough. It should make about 3 pounds of dough.
After the second rise, separate the dough and braid into challot as usual, I make two triple-braided loaves.
Place tiles into the oven and heat to 400 while the braided loaves make their final rise.
Put cornmeal on the peel, turn the braided loaves onto it, paint with a wash of egg white and water, and bake on the tiles.
After 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 375

They are done when instant-read thermometer reads 180, you may want to flip them over (carefully) for the final few minutes of baking.

Cool and eat.

Because of the yeasting and the hot tiles my challah tend to roughly double in size when they bake. I could probably cut back on the yeast because of the leavening effect of the eggs. In fact, I think I will do that next week. Challah are a work in progress.


Posted by
Red Ted
at 11:14 AM | TrackBack
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February 01, 2005

Trackbacks OFF

I just got hit by a trackback spammer. It was a mite tedious as they were spamming as I was deleting.

Trackbacks are currently off. I will turn them back on in a week or so.

The only good news is that there is a chance that the original spammer got himself banned/chastized by his IP, because when I went to follow up I found a re-direct to a complaint form.

But that might just be wishful thinking.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 09:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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