Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My recent experiments with sourdough

Some recent experiments.

Yours, taking a slash and bake approach,

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A cat flap

We've had excitement here this evening: a whole bunch of children and a somewhat smaller number of grownups over for dinner. A simple feast to celebrate the autumnal air: bangers and mash and baked beans. Delicious.
Unfortunately in the excitement of everyone leaving, the back door was left open for about ten minutes.

Now, our two cats are in the process of being switched from indoor to outdoor cats, but we haven't introduced them to the cat flap yet, or given them incentives to stick around and come back inside (you know, pieces of chicken, etc) and they were nowhere to be seen. We searched around the house for about quarter of an hour, calling, rattling cat food in a bowl, peering under trees and bushes, but they weren't to be found. Eventually, it being bedtime for little ones, we left the back door open a few inches and went to get the children ready. Two minutes later LOML walked into the kitchen, and there
they were, at eye level, staring back; sitting in the kitchen window -- on the inside of the screen -- insisting that no, they hadn't been outside at all, not no how, not no way, not never!

Yours, greatly relieved,

Monday, September 28, 2009

Momentary joys

I meant to mention this a few days ago when it happened: in all the battles over nighttime songs, books and poems, getting Boo and Skibo to sleep, there was one moment of magic for me: I was singing a song to Boo for the third time in the hope that this one would be the one that got her settled enough to fall asleep by herself, and halfway through "Make and Break Harbour" (Stan Rogers' beautiful ballad about a dying fishing village) she interrupted me to say "how do you you sing it like that?" I asked her what she meant, and she said "how do you sing it so beautifully?"

Yours, thinking that that one moment makes up for most of the others!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How a Sunday should be....

Delightful friends, delicious food, another perfect way to end the weekend.
And so, on to another week.

Yours, preparing to face the day tomorrow,

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Making lasagna

Usually when I make lasagna -- the noodles, not the dish -- from scratch, I use a pasta rolling machine. It works wonderfully well, and is lots of fun, etc, but today I just didn't feel like dragging it out of the cupboard, finding the chopping board to clamp it to, etc.
So I picked up my french rolling pin and put my arms to work. Surprisingly easy! It was actually really easy to get the dough thinner by rolling than by machine. And now I don't think I'm going to make lasagna by machine again.

Yours, still intending to use the food processor though,

What a lovely day

The weather was lovely --- wet and miserable and quite autumnal. The family went on a trip to get autumnal pyjamas, and to look at garden sheds for LOML's school garden project, and to get food. We had lovely friends over, impromptu, as it were, for dinner --- home-made lasagna --- and just had a great time.

Yours, delighted with the day,

Friday, September 25, 2009

Senator Kyl won't get pregnant

No matter how hard I try, I just *can't* seem to get Senator Kyl (Arizona, Stupid) pregnant. And as a consequence, he's probably absolutely correct: he doesn't need his health insurance to cover him if he gets pregnant.

Well, Senator Kyl, this is to me, exactly the point. I'd like our society to say: everyone should have health care, and society should bear the burden of paying for it: this is a predictable societal cost, and it would be a good thing for us all if we keep our society healthy: we could curb the ridiculous excesses, which are fewer than the cable shows would have us believe: we could curb the excessive insurance costs, which are less burdensome than some would have us believe: we could even pay for more doctors to go through medical school, provided they are willing to work for health instead of wealth as a primary goal. But as a starting point, we can begin by insuring everyone.

Yours, shouting that we need health insurance for all,

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Technology fails me

Just spent several minutes typing something into a window, click to focus, and the window vanishes. Different program, a few minutes later, same sort of behaviour. Not what I expect, linux. Not what I expect.

Yours, not needing a computer to tell me it's time for bed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Just when LOML and I were discussing how happy we are with the children's school, and how wonderful Boo and Skibo's teachers are, we get slapped, as they say, upside the head.
Skibo brings home his report card (this is from 5K kindergarten, mind) and has a tick on every box at "making satisfactory progress". Okay, that's fine: he's too young for them to see what he's actually doing. Except. Except. Except he's one tick back of that for "recognizing geometric shapes". Arrrrrrrgggghhhhh..... if there's one thing he's not having problems with, it's recognizing circles, squares,
rectangles and triangles. It's something he's been able to do for two years now, at least. It's something we've played with a lot, especially since I'm a frickin mathematician and I do lot's of origami with him and ask him things like "what shape is this?" to which the answer is "square" or whatever.

We have our parent-teacher conference tomorrow, and this will come up.
Yours, grrrrring.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumn is not just in the air

it is on the ground and running. Running water, that is.

Actually, up here, the water stopped running from the sky yesterday, but the scenes from Georgia in the Atlanta area are pretty amazing: floods everywhere, and water running over everything.

Canoes no longer optional, it seems.

I'd like to see a little more rain here --- not so much as to cause flooding, but I don't want another drought like we had until the spring here.

Yours, damply,

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another weekend bites the dust

It's how I count off time: this many days to a breath, a weekend, this many weekends since the beginning of the last block of monts, this many months until a break. This one, at least, was a nice one.

Yours, as ready as I'm going to be to count down to next weekend.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Roast pork

and roast potatoes, and stirfried vegetables. Delicious, delectable.
Maybe not so healthy, but that's what Sunday dinners are for:-)

Yours, pigged out,

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Beer tasting

We have a friend who has a beer tasting party every year on or about his birthday. And this year, as always, ten years in a row now, we went to the beer tasting. It was fun, pleasant people, nice conversations, good time all round. But by the end of the evening, after we'd sipped half an ounce or so of perhaps fifteen or twenty beers, I was left thinking that I'd only enjoyed perhaps one or two of them. For some reason this surprised me. Just like last year, and the year before.

Yours, less a fan of beer than I think,

Talk like a pirate day

We celebrated "Talk Like A Pirate Day" today --- we celebrated by telling Boo and Skibo it was TLAPD, to which Boo replied "Why?" I explained that some people a few years ago thought that it might be fun to have such a day. Boo replied "Why?" I explained some more. "Why?"

Yours, letting it drop,

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pumpkin shortage

Did you know that there's a pumpkin shortage? I hope that you are all conserving your pumpkins.....

Yours, sounding the warning,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Not to harp on about this

but seriously, children, can't you go to sleep already?

At least this evening Skibo was asleep at the end of songs and poems: Boo took several attempts at persuasion before she finally went to lie down for the night.

Yours, ready for this behaviour to improve.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why can't they sleep at night?

No, I don't mean politicians and insurance executives: this time, I'm referring the children. Two little ones who are "afraid" to go to sleep by themselves this evening. So I'm sitting in the dark typing by the light of the laptop screen, waiting for the breathing to settle so I can re-emerge into the light.

Yours, in the dark about this one,

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A bolt from the blue

How lovely! A message from an old friend, one I'd not heard from in almost twenty years, saying hello!

Yours, loving catching up with old friends,

How can they sleep at night?

How can they live with themselves? How can they look themselves in the eye in the mirror and pretend to be human?

I'm referring to two parties to the current health care debate: republicans and insurance companies. In eight states, insurance companies can deny coverage to a victim of domestic violence: they are able to regard it as a pre-existing condition! This is disgusting. But more disgusting is that three years ago there was an attempt by Senator Patty Murray to change the law on this, but the bill died in committee, victim of a 10-10 vote. Those ten votes? All from one party.

Yours, so disgusted I could live in Tunbridge Wells,

Monday, September 14, 2009

First soccer game

(That's football, of course). Boo being 6 and Skibo be 4, they get to play on the same 6-and-under team: and there being ten players on their team, they split into two teams of five, playing three on the field, two off at any one time.
Today they played their first game against another side: it was a rather one-sided result, though they did manage to score one goal. Actually, although the score was about fifty to one, they played reasonably well --- it's just that at that age, having one or two children who are much better can enable a side to dominate. And that's precisely what happened.

Fortunately, neither Boo nor Skibo seems to be seriously scarred by the experience. LOML and I, on the other hand....

Yours, glad the kids had a ball,

Sunday, September 13, 2009


It's not quite cool enough yet -- but it is getting there. Autumn will be here soon (perhaps even by the equinox when it is officially supposed to begin).
And we had to be elsewhere for much of the afternoon -- a birthday party for one of Boo and Skibo's friends (whose parents are our friends too). So a dish that could be cooked in the oven while we partied made sense.
Stew, slow cooked, with beef, mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, onions, various herbs, and a nice healthy dose of guinness.

Delicious. And served with (relatively) fresh (and very good) bread.

Yours, dishing it up,

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Unruined dinner

It was a narrow miss. And it set dinner back a good half an hour.
I put on some brown rice for dinner, ran to the store, only to discover on my return that I'd left the rice boiling instead of simmering. I picked up the lid to stir and add some boiling water (in the hope of not ruining it), only to discover that the handle was metal (it was not the usual lid I use) and hot. And when dropped, shattered into thousands of small pieces, thankfully of safety glass rather than tiny daggers.
Mess though it was, and as annoying as it was, I managed to recover the dinner. Not brown rice, but basmati, and everything was a little later than intended, but it all worked out.

Yours, shattered,

Friday, September 11, 2009

Meeting the teacher

LOML and I had a parent-teacher conference this afternoon with Boo's teacher: she seems extremely good, very well aware of where Boo is (reading way beyond her level --- and way beyond the rest of her class, ahead of schedule in everything) and with lots of good ideas about how to gently stretch her further. She also doesn't seem hidebound by the standardized tests that she has to live with, and cares about making sure that all the children in her class learn as much as they can. We left very very impressed.
One of the things we had explained was something about the different levels of reading, and the way the tests are done (there are multiple tests of reading, and you can't skip levels and test several levels up: so on test day, Boo has to go through multiple tests and still not reach her level!)
On returning home, I started looking at the reading lists they have online for their accelerated reading program: we've got lots of books to keep her interested, I think, for at least the next little while. There were some surprises in the lists, mind you --- books rated easier than others, books rated harder.
Winnie the Pooh was around the same level as the first Harry Potter, which was a huge surprise to me. Bottom line, I think that Boo just breezes through most of the list in a few months time, level-wise, at least.

Yours, proud of my little one,

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Followup on yesterday

It appears that the UK Government has almost listened: it's not clear that it's an apology, but the PM released a letter calling the treatment of Alan Turing "appalling"

Actually, having just read this, it is clear (right at the bottom of the page) that it is actually an apology.

Yours, happy to see this,

It's not just a lack of civility

It's the lack of sense, the utter stupidity of it that gets to me.
I watched Obama's speech last night, was moderately impressed by his rhetoric, and less so by his moves to the right on policy, the fact that he's already given up so much to get to where we are, all to the resounding wall of "No!" from the GOP.

But the fact that Joe Wilson could shout out "Liar!" the way he did (and there are rumours that he twittered about his plans to do this ahead of time, making it premeditated incivility) and still be treated as a normal decent human being (in particular, by some in the news media) is incredible to me.

My favourite reaction to all over this (better even that Obama's professorial stare at him, and Pelosi's head-snapping double take) is the following image. Borrowed from elsewhere, and if it is your image, I apologise: let me know and I'll give you credit or take it down.

Yours, sick of the childishness,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Turing, not redeemed, but to get apology?

Alan Turing, one of the most amazing individuals of the last century, partly responsible for breaking Enigma, inventor of much of the field of computer science, was hounded to death (at best) by an ungrateful British government, hounded because he was homosexual. His contributions to the world of thought, especially his "Turing Test", the concept of "Turing Machines", and his proof of the unsolvability of the "Halting Problem" live on. These topics are joys to teach.

And now, decades after his death, there may be some very small recompense. No, not recompense. An insufficient apology. Insufficient, perhaps, but necessary.

Yours, hoping that the UK government has the courage to do the right thing here,

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fired up about origami

Actually, at the moment, I'd describe it more as intrigued than fired up: but I've been told a few times in the past few weeks about precious metal clay sheets, a silver-and-binder product which can be folded, almost like paper, into various forms. One then fires it in a kiln, and out comes a silver, solid piece of origami.
The sheets are expensive enough that I'll think about this for a little while: but it seems like it would be fun to try. And I know people with kilns who could probably be talked into letting me fire them.

Unfortunately, the other similar products, gold, bronze and copper clays, don't come in a sheet form: I think that I'd most like to do some folding in bronze: not really sure why, just that it appeals more than the others. The bronze and copper products are rather new, so perhaps the sheet forms are round the corner.

At some point, once I have talked to some people with more experience in firing, I will probably give this a go. Not yet, but someday. Possibly even before the end of the year: I can imagine making little dolphin earrings as Christmas presents.

Yours, contemplating,

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day

Hmmm... I started out writing "yes, I spelled it that way", thought "that sounds familiar", and checked yesterday's post.
Oh well, so I repeat myself. Oh well, so I repeat myself.
We're a right to work state, which means that the state has the right to make us work even on Labor Day. And so we labour on.

In honor of labor day I returned home less than eight hours into the working day. Quite a pleasant change from normality on a Monday. I'd thought about possibly baking another batch of bread today, to make it four days in a row for the first time in ages, but didn't have the energy yesterday to get it started. It'll wait, and we have enough to last a day or two anyway.

In honour of the day, I listened to music while preparing lectures: I settled on Phil Ochs singing about Joe Hill, Joan Baez singing about Joe Hill, and then a mix of Ochs and Billy Bragg singing about unions and the working class.

Yours, celebrating in a right to work state,

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Last days of summer

Tomorrow is Labor Day (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose. It's a proper name, even if those who named it mis-spelled it.
It is the traditional day which marks the end of summer (just as last week's holiday does the same in the UK). As such, the outdoor pool closes for good tomorrow -- it's really been shut for a week, but they opened for today and tomorrow for one last fling.
We went to swim today, Boo and Skibo and me -- a lovely time --- and LOML will take them tomorrow, and I'll join them there as soon as I can. And next year, we are definitely going to rejoin the pool. It's been an absolute sanity saver this year, and probably will be for several years to come.

Oh, and the reason that I can't go out to the pool tomorrow when I want to? Well, let's just say that my state doesn't appreciate unions, and the idea of giving labour a day off is anathema to the spirit of most labourers here (silly, yes... but unfortunately true). As such, even though my university is a state institution, I don't get the day off.

Yours, labouring under several misapprehensions (not least that the state cares),

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gentle days

In the summer, everything is hectic and crazy. And the same is true of the other three seasons.

Except for a few weekends in the autumn (and actually, late summer) when the football season is on. Traffic is typically hectic for several hours, and they station off-duty policemen to make the lights work in favour of the fans and against everyone else: so on those days, we tend to make the days gentle ones.

We don't go out too far, we don't run around doing things, we just stay at home, mostly, and enjoy the day.

Today was one of those days. I liked it.

Yours, gently,

Friday, September 4, 2009

Breaking glass

We didn't go to the emergency room this evening. It wasn't a close call, fortunately.

Some years ago, when I was barely into double digits, I put my fist -- and my wrist -- through a piece of glass. My little sister rapidly switched from trying to wind me up (which had precipitated said breakage) to binding me up. We put a homemade tourniquet on my arm, bandaged it up, etc....
My parents, on their return a little later, drove me to the emergency room, where the professionals were very impressed with the care my sister had taken of me:
"is she a nurse?" they asked me. "No, she's eight." I replied.

Luckily, when Boo put her hand through a pane in the door to the deck this evening, she merely had a slight cut. But it took me back thrumptysevix years, which reminded me how lucky she was (and we were) this evening.

Yours, any way you slice it,

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Tomorrow I'll make a batch of sourdough pizza for dinner: and Sunday the second batch of sourdough. Since I'm new to this particular type of bread dough, I'm excited to see how it turns out: and sure that it will be edible even if it is not transformative.
Speaking of which, when I last described sourdough as not yet transformative (in another forum) I had all sorts of responses suggesting that I was expecting a chorus of angels, singing hosanna, or some similar response from the universe.

So let me be clear: I want a transformative experience from my bread (and from my sourdough). But I don't expect heavenly choirs to descend each time, or even ever!

Yours, (I kneaded to say that)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I stepped outside and found autumn

Suddenly, autumn is here. I stepped outside my building at work a few minutes ago, and it struck me. It's not the temperature: it's still going to get well into the eighties for a little while yet. But there was something intangible, not a smell, not a feeling, but a something barely detectable.
And I knew Autumn was about to hit us. Delightful!

Yours, falling for the season,

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A new month, and I forget to blog

As I was lying in bed, reading before sleep, I realised that I hadn't blogged. And so, what am I blogging about?
Not gmail collapsing.
Not the prospect of H1N1 taking down the world.
Not bread, and how wonderful it is.

No, I'm blogging about nearly forgetting (and then remembering in time) to blog.

Yours, self reverentially,