Thursday, January 31, 2008

Poor sprogs

One day it's one of them --- two days later, it's the other. Colds, coughs, sniffles, feeling miserable. Oh, and needing to crawl into bed with Mummy and Daddy halfway through the night.

Soon, little ones soon, you'll get better soon.

Yours, barely able to wait,

John gone

John, you will be missed.
I'm sorry to see you go.
Now, let's elect Obama, and get you appointed Attorney General!

Yours, in hope, still,

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Florida primary -- the Democrats

Since Florida decided it wanted to jump ahead early in the primary process, and since the Democratic party decided it wanted control of the process, the party decided to strip the state of its delegates, and the candidates pledged not to campaign there: a pledge which seems mainly to have been honoured, although it seems that there may have been airdrops of Clinton signs at her victory party last night.

And now, having won Florida (and also the similar situation in Michigan, where she was the only seriously viable candidate on the ballot) Clinton is pledging to seat the Florida delegates.

My problem with this is three-fold:
i. it takes away the disincentive for other states to attempt similar power-grabs next cycle
b. the outcomes don't reflect (especially in Michigan) what would have happened had all candidates campaigned
3. to allow it to happen would be handing Clinton a huge advantage outside the regular process: sort of a Deus Ex Machina hanging chad.

Comments on other sites, notably Talk Left, have made the case that the voters in Florida have voted, made a statement, and it should not be disregarded. And I agree with this: when I last checked, Clinton got more votes in Florida than McCain did. Probably what the party should have done is a harsher version of what the Republicans did: strip most, but not all of the delegates, in a "the earlier you want your voice to count, the fewer delegates you are going to get" approach. Probably what they should do now is to offer the Florida party the option of a caucus or another primary late in the process. And only a half-delegation, as punishment for trying to jump ahead of the game. As long as we have a a primary process (and it is not something that I am hugely in favour of!) it needs certain national guidelines to make it work.

Michigan's delegates certainly should not be seated: the fact that Clinton managed to wait to drop out until after the other candidates had done so, and then was able to say "Oh, I won't campaign, but I'm going to stay on the ballot anyway" was disgusting. I could see sitting all the uncommitted delegates, but none of hers, or in preference, letting them have a caucus or another primary later in the process, and as in Florida, seating a half-delegation.

For now, I'm disgusted with Clinton's approach. As I've said all along, I'll support her over whichever Republican bubbles up through the sludge (and this morning the pundits are all saying McCain is a lock, so it will probably be someone other than him): but this makes me much more likely to donate to Obama in the interim, and to work to keep her from getting the nomination.

Yours, in disgust,

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Countries like Asia and India


Willard "Mittens" Romney, in his concession speech, more a stump speech, really, in Florida this evening, describing the competition from "countries like Asia, Inda...."

It's bad enough that he lists Asia as a country --- to then list a country that is in fact a country in Asia, well, there is nothing for it but to ridicule him.

A slip of the tongue, of course, is always forgivable, and so, having ridiculed you, Mittens, I forgive you.

Yours, in sympathy,

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thank goodness that's over

The last time I have to choose between staying attentive to politics, and thus having to listen to his state of the union address, and turning off the television in disgust. Oh, to have a President I can respect again --- even one I disagree with vehemently, such as GHWB, would be preferable to this one.

Tell me again, three hundred and how many days till the inauguration?

Yours, counting,

Sunday, January 27, 2008

We've created two monsters

Well, not really --- but we are trying to encourage Boo and Skibo to enjoy music, and so I picked up a couple of very cheap little mp3 players, and loaded them with some of their favourite songs. A huge hit --- the two of them dancing round the room, singing away, not realizing how loud they are singing, nor the fact that we can't actually hear the music they can hear....
We will probably have to ration how much time they spend with them, but for now, we are thrilled with their reactions:-)

Yours, in harmony again,

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Record turnout

It is already a record turnout by over a hundred thousand votes. With 89% of the precincts reporting, the total vote for Democrats is about 430,000: the Republicans only reached about 450,000 --- so it looks likely that the Democratic turnout will indeed overtake that of the Republicans. In this state, that is absolutely huge!

Yours, trilling,

Update: with 95% precincts reporting, turnout has exceeded half a million! Absolutely brilliant! And coming in distant second, Clinton will almost beat McCain's vote from last week. Obama will almost double it!

Democrats versus republicans

It looks from today's results --- with about thirty percent of precincts reporting --- that not only will Obama get more votes in South Carolina than any Republican did last week, but it is possible that so might Clinton! And Obama might actually get twice as many votes as McCain did! Turnout looks like it was particularly high, which is very good.

Yours, disappointed by Edwards' vote, but thrilled by the turnout,

Update at 50% of precincts reporting --- it appears that there were a lot of low turnout precincts coming in for the past few minutes: Obama should still get more than McCain did, but Clinton may fall a few thousand votes short. Still as stunning result, and the turnout is much bigger than last election.

Primary today, disenfranchisement tomorrow

Here in the US we have a very peculiar political process. Having grown up in the UK, I approach it with fascination, a lack of understanding coupled with a desire to figure it out, and truth be told, a certain measure of ridicule.
Why, for example, does it take a good year or two to elect a president? In this day and age this is ridiculous!
And the whole two party system, combined with historical hangover that is the electoral college, makes things completely idiotic.

Today is primary day here (for those voting in the Democratic party primary): and although we are very early in the primary/caucus process, it actually means that a vote here means more than a vote, say, in Pennsylvania several months from now. Most likely, the candidate will have been picked by then, and their votes will be purely symbolic.

Even here, though, many of my friends already feel disenfranchised: they wanted to vote for Biden or Dodd, Richardson or Kucinich: but they have all already dropped out of the race.
And I am under now apprehension that my choice will win: I voted for John Edwards, not because I dislike Clinton or Obama, not because I am turned off by their campaigning as the media would like to have it, but because I like Edwards more on the issues, on the topics he is choosing to focus on, than Clinton or Obama.
Edwards will not win. He will almost surely come in third place, and not close to second. In that sense, my vote will be meaningless --- except in so far as it is an encouragement to him to stay in the race to be able to spotlight his issues.

In November, I will be effectively disenfranchised. The winner-takes-all electoral college system means that my vote is irrelevant: this state will probably vote republican by at least a ten percent margin, regardless of who the candidates are. And the same is true of most of the country: Texas, New York, California, Wyoming, big or small, states have political trends so far from the parties being competitive that their votes will be taken for granted. Florida, Ohio, and the other "battleground states" will be the only ones taken seriously.

Perhaps this is a part of the root of the disinterest with which the population views the political process, a "my vote won't matter anyway" view which is actually true, in a way that it wouldn't be true in other political systems.

Yours, soon-to-be-disenfranchised,

What the heck does Tingalayo mean?

Does anyone know? Boo asked what the word tingalayo meant, and I told her I'd find out for her. Foolish me! Google, wikipedia, etc fail to reveal even a hint of a trace of an answer, at least for me. The phrase "word tingalayo" apparently appears for the first and only time on the web in this post!

Yours, in the spirit of inquiry,

Children and music

Boo and Skibo are taking music lessons at school, and we were given the chance to buy a cd with all the songs they are learning (and more). Naturally, we jumped at the chance to spend another fifteen bucks on their education. (Seriously, almost every day the dyke springs another leak, and we have to send one or the other of them with another ten or fifteen or twenty dollars, it seems) (Not that we begrudge them it) (Much.)

I do think that this was well spent. I got the cd yesterday when I picked the kids up from school, and we listened to it on the way home. As we pulled into the driveway, Boo asked if we could bring the cd in with us --- and immediately wanted it playing.
I picked the disk up less than 24 hours ago, and we are already on about the tenth time playing it through! And Boo and Skibo are singing along with the songs they are learning, and few others too:-)

Yours, in harmony,

Friday, January 25, 2008

Finally Obama came

and I couldn't go to see him.

Unfortunately, he was here late this afternoon, and I was running the origami club, as I do every Friday afternoon. If I had had more than a few hours notice, I might well have decided to cancel the origami --- but I didn't and so there it is.

Anyway: I think that my decision is firm: Edwards. It will do no good, but I'm sticking with it.

Yours, set,

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Emulating Pepys

There are not very many ways that my diary, this blog, could be compared to the famous one of Samuel Pepys -- not favourably, at least! -- with the possible exception of the following: as tired as I feel today after a long day, there's only one phrase for it:

And so to bed.

Yours, in plagiarism,

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Freezer burn

I burned my fingers this evening. On the freezer. Yes, and I do mean burned. As in with heat.
Who would have thought it? It turns out that in the icemaker in our relatively-new freezer -- 2005, I think it was that we bought it -- has a very hot, very very very hot piece of metal in it. I am guessing that it is there to cut through ice cubes so that they will pop out nicely -- that or the freezer is malfunctioning, and big time!
And I discovered this piece of hot metal by touching it with two fingers, and swearing loudly as a result.

Fortunately this time Boo and Skibo were in bed, and so they didn't risk learning any new phrases from this adventure.

Yours, burned,

A great gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair

and other mumblings were heard in my vicinity today... I had to communicate some information with people who only use windows, and office, and.... and I had to use a proprietary program to create a part of this document, on an old computer which claimed I had no license to use said program... it finally gave in and agreed that "yes, you do have a license after all" --- but not before Boo and Skibo had come dangerously close to learning some new phrases.

But I'm done. And should remain done with that particular problem for a few months.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Now that Thompson has dropped out

we can hope that McCain can choose him as his running mate, and we can finally get to the real slogan:
"This is not your father's republican party.
This is your great-grandfather's republican party"

Of course, I joke.
Your great-grandfather may not have been a Republican. And actually, I think that I prefer the Republicans of the 1950s to those of today, perhaps with the exception of a few such as McCarthy.

Yours, wondering: "McCarthy or Rove? McCarthy or Rove?"

Monday, January 21, 2008

Just desserts

I finally made the dessert pizza I've been threatening --- following a suggestion by Joke, I settled on toppings of raspberry coulis (a quarter cup of water, a quarter cup of sugar, a 12 ounce bag of frozen raspberries, this not being the season for fresh --- simmered for ten minutes or so, then blended with a stick blender and sent through a coarse sieve) and drizzled white chocolate, to mimic tomato sauce and cheese.
Photos will follow at some point, and you can judge for yourselves, but I think I did a pretty good job of making it look like a pizza.
As for flavour, the brioche was superb, light, delicate and delectable: the toppings matched well together and with the crust, and at one point near-orgasmic moans were being elicited from all the adults eating it. Who also insisted that the children only be allowed tiny slivers, and no seconds!

I don't think that I've ever before had a reaction quite like it!

Yours, chuffed,

Sunday, January 20, 2008

We were supposed to watch football

today, but our friend's little boy had a 102.8 F fever this morning (lower now, thank goodness -- that is scarily high), and so we are instead at a loose end. Naturally we invited friends over for dinner instead --- I'm throwing together a risotto alla sbiraglia (a chicken risotto, but doesn't it sound more impressive in the Italian?) and am making focacica with some dough I happened to have lying around for just that (sort of) purpose. I decided on a dual topping: one half is rosemary alone, the other is sliced onion, sauteed until golden in olive oil, with about half an ounce of finely chopped pancetta sauteed in with it.

We are starting with a smoked salmon pate that I made yesterday (appropriate quantities of sour cream, ricotta, smoked salmon, salt, pepper, lemon juice, in a food processor): we had bought some smoked salmon which turned out to be west-coast style rather than lox-ish, and it wasn't suitable for the purpose we had in mind for it: but since it reminded me very much of smoked trout, I decided to use a smoked trout pate recipe with it. It's not bad --- a little heavy on the sour cream and ricotta, but quite edible.

Yours, on the spur of the moment,

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Charlie Brown, Lucy, football

No snow. Well, some lovely large flakes a couple of hours ago, mixed with a little rain, but nothing stuck.
The one-to-three inches of accumulation during the day, followed by an inch this evening, is now looking like "Hah hah! Fooled you!".


Yours, muttering,

Friday, January 18, 2008

Snow again!

Despite the fact that we usually get exactly one snowfall a year, whether we need it or not, it turns out that we have another snowfall coming tomorrow. And looking at the weather, it might even be cold enough that it will stick around until Sunday afternoon or so!

I'm so thrilled, especially as Boo seems somewhat better today, and I will feel much less nervous about her being outside in it than yesterday.

Yours, waitin' for the white!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Colbert and Huckabee

Funny stuff: Colbert pretending to pushpoll for Huckabee. The push poll I was disgusted by is now all over the news: apparently it is by a group who claim no connection to Huckabee (and he has disavowed them) but who support his candidacy.

In related news, I chose, actively chose, not to go and see him today. Apparently this meant that I also gave up the opportunity to see some wrestler too, who seemed to be the cause of all sorts of palpitations in younger people around. Who does this Ric Flair person think he is?

Yours, not wrestling with that decision,

Snow , phase two

The snow was wonderful.
It is gone.
The pictures will remain.
Once they are downloaded.

Yours, after a phase transition,

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Snow! Of course, in an hour or three it is going to change to freezing rain and ice, but for a little while,

Probably the only snow of the year.

Yours, flaky,

Push polled

Picked up the phone this afternoon, only to hear a recorded voice: "This is a poll, it will only take 45 seconds of your time": a few innocuous questions asked, about whether I am going to vote, which party I support, etc: and then "Do you consider yourself pro-life?" Accidentally replying yes (who knows why I replied that way --- I am solidly of the opinion that this is a difficult issue, best handled by completely avoiding unwanted pregnancies: but when it comes down to it, I am pro-choice, especially when there are medical indications) I was amazed by the sudden string of vituperative statements flying down the phone line:
"Did you know John McCain voted to allow using unborn children for medical research?"
"Did you know Mitt Romney has changed his position on abortion, flip flopping back and forth six or seven times?"
"Did you know Mike Huckabee has been absolutely consistent in his stan.."
Click. I hung up the phone, disusted.

Now, I was so angry at the call, which so clearly appeared to be trying to favour Huckabee, that I did wonder if it was actually by some other candidate trying to get people angry at him, but I suspect it was actually really just a really nasty piece of Atwater-style campaign tactics, and that it was actually from Huckabee.
He had seemed goofy, likeable in a fascistic sort of way --- humourous on the Colbert Report. Now, after his statements on religion and the constitution, and this push-polling, he looks seriously ugly. I was never going to be for him, and didn't want to see him as the Republican candidate: I already thought he was scary. But now, it is an order of magnitude worse.

Yours, pushed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Kucinich versus Giuliani

What a shame that the Democratic primary was uncontested! If it had been contested, and the turnout had matched the Republican turnout, and if Kucinich could have kept the 4% of the vote he's taken, he'd have beaten Giuliani on number of votes. As it is, it looks like he'll end up with about 23000, and Giuliani will only get about 28000!

O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us

Yours, not yet Burns'd out,

Comments on Michigan

Michigan: the Democrats stripped the state of their delegates (at least for now) to the national convention, since MI tried to leapfrog to too early a position in the primary process. The Republicans decided only to remove half of the state's delegates. As a consequence, Clinton was the only serious candidate running in Michigan today. On the Republican side, it was a six man race still.

The results are still coming in, but based on 30% of the returns or so, it appears that Willard "Mittens" Romney has finally won a contested primary: so now there are three Republicans who have each one a primary or a caucus (no, I'm not really counting Wyoming): and so Rudy 9iu11ani will no doubt claim that he has his opponents exactly where he wants them.
Except, of course, for the small fact that he looks likely to come in sixth today. After Ron "Crazy" Paul and Fred "Lazy" Thompson, as well as the three leaders. And in his firewall state of Florida he appears to be in fourth place in the polls.

Watching all the leads change, I'm in something of an "If today is Tuesday, this must be Belgium" kind of mood.... that or "Musical Chairs".

Yours, waiting for the music to stop,

Monday, January 14, 2008

Stephen Colbert's portrait

Stephen Colbert is running a mini documentary on the Colbert Report about how he's trying to give the Smithsonian Museum his portrait (of him standing next to a portrait of him standing next to his portrait).
It's pretty funny, as is a lot of his stuff --- and most of the two segments so far have been self ridicule on his part --- until they got to the part about the Smithsonian having accepted (bought?) the laptop used by the character Carrie Bradshaw on Sex And The City. And the curator or director attempting to justify why they have this laptop.....

And it struck me how much more influence on the country The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have (not least because they are on all cable systems, whereas Sex And The City was on a pay-for channel; plus, they draw large audiences four nights a week, most weeks a year; and large numbers of young americans say that they get almost all their television news from the two of them).
And I felt sympathetic to Colbert: enough to consider writing a letter to the Smithsonian suggesting that they ought really to accept the portrait. Perhaps just to leave in a warehouse for now, but in a few years time not accepting it might look like a rather dubious decision!

Yours, for the Report,

Full swing

The new year, and the busy-ness it brings, are in full swing, it seems. And with the kids coughing all night (both to some extent, but mainly Boo), we are all walking around with dark circles looking like pandas.

So, for today, I am
Yours, as ever,

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Today is on a "Knead the dough basis" only

Four different doughs today: standard white batard-y loaf, pizza dough, mostly wholewheat (in the oven right this minute) and lasagna noodles.
We had Boo's friend B over to learn to make pasta, while Skibo was off at a birthday party. We had plenty of fun making the dough, rolling out the lasagna noodles, and generally doing kids-can-cook-ish things. Unfortunately, I lost track of the time, and the lasagna didn't make it into the oven until gone 5:30, and B's mother decided he needed an early enough night that they had to leave before dinner. So now I feel really bad about that mixup --- I probably shouldn't: there were lots of little "nearly sick child" distractions going on between two little kids who are teetering on the edge of something. Still, we have lots leftover, and the leftovers are actually as good as or better than the first day -- and they may be able to come and eat and run tomorrow.

Yours, rolling (but not in) the dough,

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Back to food

I've been thinking about food as well as politics (of course) (doesn't everybody?) and wanted to share my most recent inspiration.
So far it exists only in my mind (LOML's too --- I've described it to see what someone else would think). But I've been wondering about dessert pizzas --- and while I could easily look up someone elses recipe, I thought that I'd try to come up with ideas unblemished by others first.
So: here is a thought for a dessert pizza.

For the crust: instead of bread/pizza dough, either brioche, or perhaps challah: eggy enough, and sweet enough to carry a dessert, and brushed to get a high gloss finish in the oven.
For the toppings: two possible choices so far:
- halves of strawberries, drizzled after baking with thin streams of ganache
- pineapple chunks and seedless grapes (perhaps halved?).

I've also been thinking about a less sweet version: a brioche crust, prebaked most of the way, then topped with hunks of brie, put back in the oven to finish for a minute or two --- not enough to melt the cheese, just soften it --- and then scattered with toasted almonds or walnuts, and drizzled with a dark chocolate.

And before you scoff at brie and chocolate together, try it!

Yours, imagining,

On the political front


I had thought that the candidates of one party or another might have made their way to my neck of the weeds, but other than Edwards (see a couple of days ago) nobody seems even to be planning trips in this direction. Not that I particularly care to see the Republican candidates, though if they were within twenty miles or so I might waste the gas to see them.
The closest other visit so far seems to have been Huckabee, who was about 80 miles away a few days ago: a friend of mine knows a musician whose band was asked to play with him (Huckabee likes to get up and jam with rock and roll bands): he reported that the band members are all planning to vote for the Democratic ticket in November, but they figured that this was great publicity for their music. He thought about turning up in hopes of being interviewed
--- "Me? I can't imagine anything that would make me vote for him or any of the other Republican candidates! I'm just here for the music!"

Yours, slighted,

Friday, January 11, 2008

The game's afoot

I've been polled several times over the past few weeks -- and each time, it's been
"Do you intend to vote in the upcoming primaries? Yes!
Do you intend to vote in the Republican or the Democratic primary? Democratic!
But today, in an automated poll phonecall, they continued to ask questions: including my favourite:
"Let's have some fun now: who is the sexiest candidate?"

I was tempted to admit to my necrophiliac vampiric tendencies and name one of Rudy, Fred or John McC (since they made that part of the call bipartisan) but I decided that at this point, I want to give John Edwards any boost I possibly can: so I hereby annoint John E sexy. I do have to say, having seen him at a distance of a few feet, he doesn't look as old as his bio claims.... I figure that if the poll has typical numbers, I have probably just shifted his numbers by two thousandths of a percentage point or so....

Yours, counted,

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pizza reprise

I promised a sort-of recipe for pizza, and have taken a few days to get to it: but finally... remember: I don't measure accurately for this recipe: add flour until the feel of the dough is right: a loose, but not too sticky dough. To get two cups of warm water mix 10 oz cold tap water with 6 oz of boiling water.

Pizza dough
1 fist-sized piece of old dough from yesterday's bread recipe (or longer: it keeps in the fridge for a week)
Bread flour (I use King Arthur's)
2 cups of warm water
Tablespoon or so of instant or active dry yeast
Tablespoon or so of kosher salt
Quarter cup or so of olive oil

Cut the dough into small pieces (about 10-20 pieces) and place in the warm water to soften. Sprinkle on the yeast, and stir in a cup or so of flour. Cover and leave for an hour or so. Then, in the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, on low-ish speed, add flour and salt to form a shaggy dough. Add the olive oil, and knead, adding flour as necessary, still on a low speed. (My mixer warns against using higher than 2 for bread dough). Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes or more. Place the dough in a large mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave to rise for a couple of hours.
Knead it lightly, cut into four (or more) pieces, placing each into a large ziploc bag, and place the bags in the fridge. The bag should be large enough to allow the dough to expand a lot.

Every few hours at first, or after a day or so, take the bags out and knock down the dough. The dough can be used after a few hours, but will last a week: it's probably at its best after a couple of days.

Well before baking the pizza, take the dough out of the fridge, stretch it into a medium flat circle on a large cutting board, cover, and leave it to relax.

Preheat the oven as high as it will go, with pizza stone on a rack in the middle. You want the oven to be at full temperature for a good 15 minutes at least so that the stone is fully up to temperature.

After half an hour or so, stretch it further, and if necessary, leave it to relax again.
Once it is stretched as large as needed (the thinner, the less puffy it will get: you should be able to get a half-sheet sized pie from this, so you could cut the dough smaller and get smaller pizzas from it) place it on a sheet of parchment paper, spread it thinly with home made pesto (thawed from last summer in our case), scatter with slices of fresh mozzarella, slices of tomatoes (I place mine on paper towels to absorb the juice for a few minutes) and freshly grated parmesan (I grate mine with a vegetable peeler to get large whole slices of parmesan), olives, and other desired toppings. Keep the toppings minimal, rather than trying to overload the dough.

Using a peel, or a rimless sheet pan, slide the pizza and paper together on to the stone in the oven. Bake for 10-20 minutes, depending on oven temperature, how charred you like your crust, etc. Remove from the oven with the peel, place on a cooling rack, and allow it to de-napalm-ize for about 10 minutes.

Slice and serve.

By the way, Joke, in a comment on an earlier post, suggested using the self-clean feature of an oven to heat the stones to a sufficient temperature. I've thought of trying that, but my oven has a locking door, and you can't turn on the self-clean without locking the door, and the lock is then locked in place until the oven has cooled down after the cleaning cycle is over! Foiled again. But professional pizza makers use ovens which reach temperatures much higher than your oven or mine will allow....

Yours, crustily,

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Jon Stewart, on the Daily Show, just asked Zogby if the polls affect the outcome, asking if "Did independents, seeing that he was ahead, decide Obama didn't need their vote and got to McCain?" or something like that....
Remember, you heard it here first!

Yours, not a writer, not on strike, but not a writer,


I went to see John Edwards today: and had a tremendous spot thanks to arriving a little early: the crowd was, I thought, reasonably large (around a thousand, I'd guess: very likely more than five hundred, very likely less than fifteen hundred) for a very conservative area, middle of the work day, impossible to park within half a mile without driving for half an hour to find a spot, rally.
His stump speech, of course, is his stump speech: there were a few changes for local context, but basically, it's the speech anybody watching closely has seen him give several times --- CNN has carried it on their "Ballot Bowl" series several times over the past week, it seems, and it is similar to his speeches after Iowa and New Hampshire. It's a decent speech, and he gives it with some fire: his message that we can't get reform with the corporations in control resonates well with people, at least the ones who turn out: and his examples, the cleft palate operation, the liver transplant, both are powerful.
I will say that I came away feeling likely to vote for him in the primary, but less impressed than I had hoped: he was not as tired as I had expected, but he could do with a little more of the firebrand he showed at the convention in 2004 with his "Two Americas" speech: I found myself wishing that this tour had played a few of his old hits as well as the new album!

I'm hoping to get a chance to see HRC and BO as well before having to decide --- no word on if/when they are coming here, but it wouldn't surprise me if they do. But at the moment, this is
Yours, leaning Edwards' way,

How were the polls wrong?

RT raised an interesting point:
"Aren't polls just a measure based on a small selection of the population?"

How wrong were the polls? This is a rather difficult question to answer: it requires much quantitative analysis, etc. I'll examine instead, one of the ways in which the polls were wrong. And while there's lots of mathematics that could be added, and assumptions that should be clarified/removed/annihilated, I'm aiming for a simple discussion here.
First: there were a rather large number of polls taken over the past few days, reasonably small samples, it is true, but many of them. And if my recollection is correct, there were around a dozen, all of which showed Obama in the lead, by smaller or larger margins. But the key points are: first, there were 12 of them, and second, they all showed Obama ahead.

A very simple model for polling is that of an urn, a huge bowl or jug, from which are drawn balls from a large number in the container. Suppose that there are a very large number of balls in the urn, and exactly half of them are labeled O (for Obama) and the other half are labeled C (for Clinton).
Now reach in and randomly select a single ball: do this 101 times (I want an odd number so that we don't get ties). Then the probability that a majority of the balls are O is exactly 1/2. If we repeat this twelve times (returning the balls each time, and remixing the contents), the probability that each time we get a majority being O is (1/2)^(12), or about one in four thousand. Tightening assumptions, using the fact that the ratio of votes last night was near 13:12 rather than 1:1, and the fact that the polls all gave rather larger a margin than a razor thin win for Obama all make this outcome less likely rather than more likely, so I think I can persuade you that a dozen polls showing a consistent outcome reflect rather more certainty than just one poll. Note that it is important that the polls be all polls taken (otherwise we could have a dozen majority O, a dozen majority C, and just select the O's --- that would not be the same thing at all!)

For those interested in rather more sophisticated analyses of what happened, I'll point you to's superb discussion. And, their better explanations than mine too (which suggest that my McCain explanation is incorrect)!

Yours, likely in error,

The polls

Why were the polls so wrong? I see two plausible theories: the first is that race is an issue: I would really like to believe that this was not the case, but it is not that easy to discount.
My favourite theory so far is that the turnout for McCain was significant among the independents, and that was one of the things which really hurt Obama. And that the reason that many of those voters went for McCain (that is, voted in the Republican primary) is that they saw that Obama was really well ahead already, and they felt that their vote wasn't needed there, and so voted in the other primary. Of course, in the popular media this would be regarded as "quantum mechanics hits politics" and "you can't observe without affecting the system".

Who knows. It certainly makes the Democratic race a bit more interesting again!

Yours, as ever,

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I'm not glued to the primary results

Really, I'm not. Why, I am typing this right this minute! Even though it is a very close race (Clinton is still ahead of Obama with 60-some percent of the precincts reporting, but apparently some big towns for him are not in yet --- it is liable to close somewhat)

I think that tomorrow I will get to go see Edwards in person: it will be interesting to see how his energy is the day after: right now his concession speech (coming in a relatively distant third) is pretty strong.

There will be more on pizza soon --- including a description of how to make the dough (I hesitate to say "recipe" since I will be intentionally vague on quantities, as I am when I make it). But for now, I am,

Yours, distracted,

Monday, January 7, 2008

Pizza tonight

No photos --- didn't think to take any until it was all gone.
It was pretty good. In the very positive sense of that phrase.
Keys to good pizza:
1. don't overload with ingredients: less is less, but more is worse
b) preheat the oven, with stones in place, for a good while, as high as you can
(iii) make the dough ahead of time, and let it rest in the fridge for a couple of days, so that it is elastic to pull/roll out, and the flavour has time to develop

I made pesto/mozarella cheese/roma tomatoes pizza as the base, with some olives sprinkled on for some of us, topped with parmesan. It was, how do I put this, "no-leftovers-pizza". Unfortunately, since last week's pizza was great the next day....

Yours, slicing and dicing with the best of them,

To my non-US blogfriends

My apologies to my friends who find american (US, that is, not generic N. American) politics tedious: I promise to get over this obsession soon. Eventually. At some point.

Yours, addicted,


Why is it that there appears to be a significant bounce in NH after the Iowa caucuses? Suddenly people seem to be switching to Obama in droves (presumably from "undecided"s). Clearly, there is an electability factor --- he's won a primary, so he's now more respectable: she's damaged, so she gets hurt.
And yet, the same argument would suggest that Huckabee should at least be showing up on the NH radar, and he doesn't really seem to be doing so.

I suspect that something more basic is in play here: that all the candidates on the Dem side are relatively near to the public perspective on issues, and so are more interchangeable: whereas various Republicans are "conservative Christians" or "social conservatives" or "fiscal conservatives", implying a different view from orthodox republicanism on other issues. To me this says that the Republicans are the fringe party of the now, able to excite, even inflame small segments of the population on key issues, but not cohesive any more. Please, let it be so!

Yours, probably in error, in this as everything else in politics!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The New Hampshire primary

The primary on Tuesday differs from the ones in South Carolina in one important respect: while voters can vote in whichever primary, Republican or Democratic, they wish in both states, in NH they get to make their mind up after they've decided to go to vote: the primaries in both parties are held on the same day: so a strong turnout amongst independents for McCain hurts Obama, and vice versa (assuming that these two are the primary recipients of out-of-party votes on Tuesday.
By contrast, in South Carolina, the Republican party's primary is a week before the Democratic party's: I think that this will lead to much less crossing of lines from party to party: I don't know what effect it will have on independents turning out for
each primary: that may depend to an extent on the NH tallies. But we should be able to tell, a week ahead of time, whether or not there is a good prospect for Obama to pick up independent votes in the Dem's primary, based solely on the independents turnout for the Rep primary a week earlier! The bigger the turnout for R, the less the independent turnout for D.

Yours, fascinated by this process

Christmas cacti

We have stunningly beautiful Christmas cactus this year --- it is probably three plants in a single pot, which we didn't realize until the flowers blossomed last month: we'd never had more than three or four blooms at a time from this plant, and didn't realize that there are at least three clearly distinct colours of flower on it. This year we have had on the order of 40 or 50 blossoms on the go continuously, new ones replacing those which die, for about a month now!
And we were dutifully impressed and proud of our horticultural skills: until we went to the hairdresser's yesterday, and noticed that her plant had probably something between three and four hundred flowers in bloom. Absolutely amazing!

Yours, in awe,

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Goodbye curls

Skibo has the most amazingly gentle curls in his blonde hair: but it was getting tooooo long, and LOML and I decided, after lots of agonizing, that it was time to get it cut. And so, after taking a long walk in the botanical gardens with him, Boo, LOML and the dog, and our taking lots and lots of photos, we ended up at the hairdresser: we had made appointments for both him and for Boo --- and they both sat perfectly still, wonderfully well behaved. The long long curls are now a thing of history and photographs, but we left his hair long enough that it still has some big curls to it.
It does make him look different: older, and perhaps more boyish. Maybe we'll no longer get people coming up to us in the grocery store telling us how pretty our girls are! (Which was always very strange: his face is not particularly feminine: he has a sly boyish grin, for sure: but people would see hair past his shoulders in this area and just assume: girl.)

Yours, trimmed as well,

Friday, January 4, 2008


I have been in discussions with the organizers of Boo and Skibo's school's fundraising gala: they have an asian theme planned, and asked if I would be willing to provide some origami pieces for them. I have, of course, agreed, with the proviso that they should come rather from the origami club which I lead (at the same school) instead of coming from me.
A few days ago, I was surprised by an additional request: they decided that it would be nice to send out invitations, 250 or so of them, each with a piece of origami on it, by the end of the month: would I do it?
I'm not one to shy away from a challenge. And today, the origami club met. And we folded nearly forty doves. It's a simple, clean fold, relatively easy to do well, and fast to fold. And doves are the symbols of peace, a central theme in the school.
I think that this is going to work!

Yours, beating back challenges left and right,

Thursday, January 3, 2008


In the summer of 2004, after Obama's speech to the Democratic Convention, I emailed a friend a short message: it read "Obama 08?" She immediately responded with something along the lines of "Don't count Hilary out".

Obama's speech just now was the best speech I've seen him give in the intervening period. He had, of course, a cheering crowd, and he was, of course, pumped up by the win, but nonetheless, I thought it was extremely good. And now the commentators seem to be saying the same thing.

Yours. wondering if he just won the whole shebang in that speech,

The Iowa result: correction

The big question is whether the press will spin McCain's likely 4th place finish to proclaim him the overall winner from both parties.

Yours, in error,

The Iowa result

I am less disappointed tonight than I was four years ago. I never managed to get enthusiastic about Kerry, except in comparison to Bush --- and I can enthusiastically support any one of Edwards, Clinton and Obama. I'm delighted that turnout has gone up not dramatically but even more, hugely more, in the Democratic race. And that a lot of the turnout was from young people is a wonderful thing.
It is not clear to me that Edwards' likely scraping a second place finish is enough for him to survive until he reaches here in a few weeks time --- I like his message best, and after today will still choose to vote for him, if I can.

It remains to see how the press treats the speeches --- four years ago, they destroyed the Dean campaign by focusing on the "scream". And does McCain's 13% finish in the Republican race allow the press to treat him as the winner overall....

This makes the races in New Hampshire much more interesting.

Yours, at the beginning of a year glued to politics,

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Iowa, then New Hampshire, then...

I am now in full on political watching mode: it begins tomorrow evening when Iowans meet in the most anti-democratic process in the country (excluding thousands, perhaps more, of the poor, those with night shifts, those with relatives who need care, those with small children who can't find babysitters, troops overseas, etc) to annoint who are going to be the candidates to continue to the next round.
I am not predicting, but I am hoping that on the democratic side it is Edwards who comes in first. I have been less than impressed with Clinton and with Obama over the past few weeks, although I'd wholeheartedly support them over the entire republican field in the general election.

But for now, this is Edwards' last shot this time round: if he wins tomorrow, he gets a chance to impress New Hampshire in a week, and to stay in the race. It could get him heard, it could get him reported on, talked about, and noticed by the voters who've been ignoring him in favour of Clinton and Obama.

On the opposing side of the aisle, I'm reluctant to hope for any of them to win tomorrow --- it will only encourage them, or someone else!

Yours, crossing fingers,

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

More on the cake

The cake was adapted from one of the "Death By Chocolate" cakes (google the books -- they are great!): it is a moist, dense-yet-light dark chocolate cake, which pairs equally well with a fluffy chocolate mousse and with a sinful ganache (which we used to coat the cake). The crumb is extremely tender, but the individual layers themselves have great structural integrity. It is only when they are stacked up that they start to slide. If I had thought about it I would have put bamboo skewers through before placing the constructed cake in the fridge to set up: it probably would have worked much better.

Yours, learning, even if it wasn't from a mistake:-)

An experimental cake

We constructed an experiment today: we saw some 8 O'Clock Mints (the "wafer thin mints" of Monty Python's Meaning of Life fame) in the grocery store, and decided to try making a chocolate cake with a hidden, wafer thin layer in the middle.
Unfortunately, for reasons which I won't go into, we ended up baking 4 layers, and making the cake tall --- since we used chocolate mousse as the filling between the layers (in addition to the mints) the cake had no structural integrity, combined with height: this led to it collapsing sideways. Still, I think that the concept was a success, and so long as we keep to just two layers in the future, and possibly replace the mousse by a ganache as well, we should have a winner on our hands.

Yours, freshly minted,

The final feast for a while

New Year's Day marks the final feast day for us for a few weeks --- the next one, of course, is Chinese New Year.
And our tradition for New Year's Day food is still evolving. I had put a couple of nice pork loins in the freezer a few weeks ago when they were on a 2-for-1 sale at the supermarket, and we had thought about having that: but on Monday when we went shopping the standing rib roasts looked so good that we decided to splurge and have that. We just had a couple of friends over to join us, and a nice quiet day made up for all the excitement of the past few weeks.
The children go back to school on Thursday, and we are definitely ready for them to have some structure back in their lives. I suspect that they too may be ready, though they might not admit it.

Yours, ready,