Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Furrday: The Doghair Witch Project

I am so scared! I don't know if anyone is ever going to play fetch with me again. No one throws the red ball! I am so scared!
I'm afraid to close my eyes, because the food I see could go away. When I close my eyes I dream of food, so I'm afraid to open my eyes.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Color Theory Update

I've continued color theory exercises on another blog and Rebecca found a couple of awesome color-related posts, too. I've already added them to the Color Theory Index. But in case you don't check that every day, I've collected them for you hear after the jump.

The Color of Heartache
Munsell Exercise 1.3: Determining Values of Colors
Munsell Exercise 1.3: Determining Values of Colors - Checking My Work
Color Theory: Value

Idée Labs' Multicolr Search Lab lets you pull up a set of images from Flickr based on their color content. "We extracted the colours from 10 million of the most “interesting” Creative Commons images on Flickr. Using our visual similarity technology you can navigate the collection by colour."

Rubitone (Rubik's Cube + Pantone) is a great idea for the design minded '80's-phile.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Furrday: Fall Portrait

"We sat still for like two WHOLE seconds. Now give us cookies!"

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jay McCarroll Fabric

Jay McCarroll, winner of the first season of Project Runway and subsequent professional disappointment, has come out with a fabric line of 100% cotton fabric for quilters through FreeSpirit. Via True Up. I was so excited to hear this news. Yet, just like my friend who bought like everything he sold on the Home Shopping Network and had to return all of it because it was manufactured so poorly, utterly disappointed to see it up close. Tell me in what kind of quilt one might be able to use this albino bunny post-cosmetic testing print? Close up after the jump, because it may not be suitable for some readers, like those who are opposed to animal testing, Gentle Reader.

I just want to buy that bunny some eye drops and tell it to have a good night's sleep, lay off the meth, and take it one day at a time.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Irrational Crafting Urge

I don't know if it's my current bout of insomnia or what, but I've got an urge to make irrational crafts.

For example, water balloon luminaries via CandleTech via Whip Up. I want to make like a zillion of them for a friend's wedding. But I won't. Nor will I make said friend a custom wedding runner. Via One Pretty Thing. So just forget I ever mentioned it.

Another example, along with all of the fabric beach balls I'm going to make to go with all of the baby quilts I haven't finished, now I want to make growth charts too, via Unraveled via Whip Up. Oh, but that growth chart involves upholstering lumber. In my imagination the growth chart is just a quilted wall hanging type deal. Easier to pack and ship with the quilt and the beach ball. All of which are entirely fictitious given the belated state of my baby blankets in progress. Oh, yeah, and now I want to make light-up firefly baby booties to go along with the baby quilts, fabric beach balls, and growth charts. Via CraftGossip. Oh, and one or more of these delinquent baby quilts, I mean delinquent quilts for babies, not that your babies are delinquents, I mean who am I to say, but still, anyway, is going to be based on this nursery art by Homemade by Jil. Via One Pretty Thing.

Oh, and in case there is any pumpkin carving in my future, I want to make mine an election-themed Barack-O'-Lantern. Via One Pretty Thing.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bob Gets Sentimental

Here's Ta-Nehisi Coates, contemplating "Obama's campaign and the values of parenting:"
Obama's mother, a relatively young woman when he was born, will not be here to see him inaugurated, should he win. Whenever, I think of that I just get sad--mostly because she did know the rewards of parenting and threw herself at her kids. There's something unjust in the fact that she won't get to see the results of all her work.

Here's the thing, and I hope it offers Ta-Nehisi some solace -- I disagree. I think she did see the results of all her work. Her son grew up to be a good and mighty man. That we are electing him to be President is just our recognition of what she already knew.

Everything I Needed to Know about Economics I Learned in Daycare

Yesterday on Talk of the Nation Joseph Stiglitz, University Professor of Economics at Columbia University and winner of the 2001 Nobel prize in economics, discussed the U.S. economy. In particular he discussed misplaced incentives, like government distortion of the real estate market through tax rebates for relatively wealthy mortgage payers. Bob has raised concerns regarding this particular misplaced incentive in previous posts. Prof. Stiglitz went on to describe regulation in terms of behaviorism which reminded me of Terri's comment to my post Corporations as Voldemort.

Specifically, Terri, so insightfully stated,

I agree with the soulless definition, but I also think of it in terms of strict behaviorism that you may use on a child without the development yet for empathy and long term planning. It seems that positive or negative reinforcement would be the only way to regulate the system as it is. Right now, the government seems to be giving positive reinforcement for screwing up, though. Clearly the wrong thing to do to change any behavior.

Stiglitz echoed Terri's analogy when he said,
If you don't change incentives you're going to wind up having very similar behavior to what we've had in the past. Many of us expected the sort of bonfire we've been having. We had distorted incentives. Incentives that encouraged short sighted behavior and excessive risk taking. And we got what the incentives encouraged. We have now given the banks a lot more money to play with, $250,000,000. But if we don't change incentives, we don't change regulatory constraints, why should we expect their behavior to be any different.
Stiglitz emphasized the need for regulation at the individual level, in terms of accountability for financial managers, as well as at the level of corporate governance. As an example of individual incentives encouraging short sighted behavior and excessive risk taking he described how fund managers receive huge bonus pay for one year's success, but suffer no repercussions in the years when their funds lose all of those previous gains. He recommends, among other things, regulating the form of pay (i.e., not accounting fudging stock options) and the rate of pay of corporate executives.

How else could we apply the lessons of early child development to address the failings of corporations?

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Round Up

In this round up: hipsters in NYC, everyone deserves defense, color IQ, Denyse Schmidt quilts for Obama, Ikea fabric, backyard chickens, alternative dog poo disposal.

P.S. I've added a new link or two to the Color Theory Index.

I'm going to NYC on my east coast tour in a week and I am, perhaps not shockingly, too cheap to get a hotel room. So I'm staying with my friend Elisa and her roommate. I am SO not cool enough.

Over dinner at my brother's wedding, my mother's significant other decided to drill me about who I would defend if I were a criminal defense attorney. My mom's S.O.'s radical inappropriateness aside, my answer was something like Peter Keane's piece in the This I Believe series on NPR: Everyone Deserves Defense.

Interested in quantifying your ability to arrange color? Got things to do that you really don't want to do? Need to look busy on your computer without actually doing anything too taxing? Test your color IQ via True Up. Beware: the graph at the end comparing your results to other folks of your age and gender is completely f--ed. Certain mathematicians, who we'll just call "Bob" for the sake of argument, would call said graph an example of innumeracy.

Check out dogged's post about an eye-bending Obama quilt designed by the very popular quilt designer Denyse Schmidt to be auctioned off to benefit the Obama campaign. Via Dogs and Laughter.

I am seriously contemplating Ikea's $5.99 per yard Inger fabric. It's 59 inches wide, so it would make a great backing fabric. And I've got some projects that are looking for some oversized black and white prints to be overdyed, so this might be just the thing. The only thing giving me pause is the extremely low thread count of some of the Ikea cloth goods I've purchased in the past. I better go check these out in person. And maybe have some Swedish meatballs and a cinnamon bun while I'm at it. Via Domino via Design*Sponge.

More support for backyard chicken coops via the Organic Consumers Association.

Another alternative to plastic grocery bags for dog waste disposal: Skooperbox Biodegradable Poop Scoop Boxes via Re-Nest.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Who Killed the Electric Car?

Who Killed the Electric Car? is a documentary film primarily focused on the short-lived success of the electric car in California and the multitude of forces that lead to its untimely demise. But even if you're not so into cars or California or the environment, the film provides an excellent illustration of how corporations control both consumers and government.

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini.

I'm not going to focus on the frustration of not being able to buy an electric car or a plug-in hybrid. I'm not going to focus on the bait-and-switch called the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. These are all important and aggravating concerns that the film covers sufficiently. The film's website provides an excellent list of resources on these topics.

The real revelation in the film comes from the evidence supporting the conspiracy among car manufacturers and gas companies to covertly kill a perfectly viable technology while purportedly supporting it. It's one thing for Wal-Mart to unabashedly exploit its suppliers, employees, and the environment in the name of low prices. It is entirely different when a corporation takes on a product line with all the appearances of enthusiasm while simultaneously trying to destroy that same product.

If corporations are rational, if soulless, actors, how does this sort of self-cannibalization take place? Following a rational actor model, car manufacturers alone would have nothing to lose by shifting to another fuel source for their vehicles. It is the gas companies who would lose. If your car is powered by electricity, you never have to buy gasoline or engine oil again. That sends chills up the spines of petroleum corporations, if they had spines. So the destruction of the electric car is evidence that the petroleum companies have HUGE influence over the automotive industry. And not just in the U.S. Honda and Toyota, purveyors of those popular hybrids, also cannibalized their electric car fleet.

The question then becomes how can you extract the petroleum companies from the decision making process. Can politicians and policymakers stand up to this lobby? The film implies that legislative and regulatory action requiring the automotive industry to reduce emissions to zero could work, as it did work to introduce the electric car to the California marketplace. But how do you convince an industry that got California to repeal those laws and regulations once that this time we're really not going to take it back. Why won't they just drag their feet, produce too few to meet demand, inflate the sales price, install less-than-state-of-the-art technology to lower performance and reputation, promote using the unattractive counter-message advertising, and donate to the campaigns of politicians willing to take it back? And unlike politicians or consumers, corporations never die. Corporations never leave to spend more time with their families. If politics is a waiting game, corporations will win.

Who Killed the Electric Car? illustrates that corporations control the government. The United States is a corporatocracy. The real question it poses is can the American people rest control of their country from the corporations and restore democracy.

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ACORN is Not a Bad Seed

In the Orwellian world of the Republican campaign machine, ACORN is a bad seed. Just as black is not white and up is not down, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, a.k.a. ACORN, is not a bad seed.

Today issued a very even-handed assessment, as usual, of the McCain campaign's claims regarding ACORN.

In sum, ACORN does the good work of helping folks register to vote. Some of its employees faked voter registration forms to get paid for work they didn’t do, NOT to cast fraudulent votes.

Making unfounded accusations of voter fraud intimidates the very real voters ACORN reached. Additionally, these false claims are part of the Republican machine's move for more hoops for voters and local election officials to jump through, which waste time and resources and erect barriers to free and fair elections. Arguably, the Republican machine's intentional dissemination of this false information in order to disenfranchise potential voters is a more clear cut case of voter fraud than anything done by any ACORN employee.

The Republican party has made a concerted effort to paint anyone helping people register to vote as perpetrators of voting fraud. This is patently false. The prosecutors who have attempted to follow up on these outrageous claims have universally found them to be false. For example, Dan Satterberg, the Republican prosecuting attorney in King County, Washington, where the largest ACORN case to date was prosecuted, said

[A] joint federal and state investigation has determined that this scheme was not intended to permit illegal voting.

Instead, the defendants [people ACORN paid by the hour to canvas] cheated their employer, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or ACORN), to get paid for work they did not actually perform. ACORN's lax oversight of their own voter registration drive permitted this to happen. ... It was hardly a sophisticated plan: The defendants simply realized that making up names was easier than actually canvassing the streets looking for unregistered voters. ...

[It] appears that the employees of ACORN were not performing the work that they were being paid for, and to some extent, ACORN is a victim of employee theft.

Democracy Now had an excellent interview with Bertha Lewis, the Chief Organizer for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, ACORN, and Cleta Mitchell, an attorney specializing in election law for Republican clients (and Samantha Bee interviewed her on The Daily Show in the 2004 election cycle about how to start her own 527 group and what content her 527's attack ads could get away with - it's all on DVD The Daily Show: Indecision 2004: Disc 3).

For other examples of systematic insidious voter deception, check out this article in the Miami Herald.

Full Disclosure: during the 2004 election I volunteered for Election Protection, a subsidiary (?) of People for the American Way, to monitor polls in Atlanta, Georgia. I have NO idea if Election Protection or PfAW have any connections to ACORN. But I do believe everyone who is eligible to vote should be registered and should vote without duress. If that makes me guilty of voter fraud in the eyes of Republicans, then so be it.

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Furrday: Izzy Archives

This is from one of Izzy's first stays at Wag-a-lot, our favorite doggy daycare/boarder EVER.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Covered in Bees

The Organic Consumers Association had a web forum discussion titled "Honey Bee Deaths Reaching Crisis Point: How to Have a Bee-Friendly Yard." One contributor, Honey Gal, had excellent suggestions which I plan to implement in our yard with the next planting season.

I'm a beekeeper and teach classes in bee stewardship. One thing folks can do to help, even if you aren't a beekeeper, is to make your yard bee friendly. Plant a flowering herb garden. Bees use herbs medicinally and your plants can help make a difference. I suggest rosemary, sage, THYME (lots of it), marjoram, chives, basil, all the mints and other herbs with flowers. Bees will find them. To do more, plant native flowering bushes, too. In our area (WA) spirea and goldenrod are bee magnets. Try to have flowers in bloom through into fall. Put out a big shallow dish of water with sticks or moss in it (so they don't fall in) and keep it moist. If you can get seaweed, bees are particularly fond of the minerals so I keep a little pile of seaweed in the "bee pond." All these small actions add up and make it a little easier on your local bees.
I am entirely charmed by the idea of a bee pond.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Interior Design at the W San Diego

As I have thoroughly cataloged in earlier posts, the weekend before last we went to San Diego to hang out with the in-laws who were in town for a conference. We got to stay at the W Hotel, which is full of fun interior design stuff that was totally inspiring. So I thought I'd share a few pictures of my favorite things about our room, including the above picture of the view from our window straight down into the pool.

Continuing the beach theme - a beach ball-esque pillow, usually poised in the middle of our bed when housekeeping had their way. It totally reminded me of the recent how-to on Purl Bee that made me want to make fabric beach balls to go with every baby quilt I make - if I could ever finish another baby quilt. Also the solid fabrics on all the pillows were like shot cotton (though they didn't feel cotton - I'm referring more to the textile manufacture process) in that the warp thread color differs from the weft thread color. The resulting fabric appears almost iridescent and the color seems to change as the fabric conforms to different shapes. So that cornflower blue fabric has orange highlights not because my camera flash was orange, but because the warp threads are orange.

David and I are complete suckers for window seats. Other than the bed, desk, and deskchair, this built-in window seat was the only other furniture in the room. It made so much more sense than the usual single upholstered chair in rooms this size. I developed a nonsensical crush on the breakfast tray. I actually spent much of an afternoon sitting in the window seat with that tray over my lap, soda can in the soda can shaped cutout, Kindle in the newspaper depression, staring out the window at the beach balls floating around the pool. I have spent the subsequent weeks trying to figure out how to incorporate a navy, cornflower, purple, and white color scheme into our house.

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Joe the Quilter

Sunday I took an awesome workshop with Joe Cunningham, a.k.a. Joe the Quilter. Seriously, it's changed my entire approach to quilting.

The workshop was put on by the Flying Geese Quilters Guild. Honestly, seeing Joe on their schedule of presenters was one of the reasons I joined this particular guild. The fact every single guild member at the class was super friendly to a new kid like me was just icing on the cake.

The workshop took place at Material Possessions Quilt Shop, which is HUGE. I suspect it has as good if not better selection of quilting fabric as G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland. And the classrooms were spacious, well-lit, well-equipped, and well-organized.

Now on to the class itself. Its title was "You Maverick, You", though the current partisan use of the term "maverick" might have inhibited Joe from referring to the title. If you look at the origin of the term "maverick" and Joe's philosophy of quilting, it's actually quite an appropriate title for the class. Conveniently enough, the New York Times addressed the history of the term in a recent piece.

In the 1800s, Samuel Augustus Maverick went to Texas and became known for not branding his cattle. He was more interested in keeping track of the land he owned than the livestock on it, Ms. Maverick said; unbranded cattle, then, were called “Maverick’s.” The name came to mean anyone who didn’t bear another’s brand.
Joe's philosophy of quilting is based on his search for the origins of what is considered "traditional" quilting. Antique quilts do not conform to the forms and techniques commonly accepted as "traditional" quilting. The rules enforced by present day "quilt police" seem to have coalesced in the patterns and kits made available in the 20th century. Patterns and kits were designed with control and efficiency in mind so quilters could predict the amount of fabric they would need for a particular project and predict the appearance of the end product.

Basically, (and I might be taking this idea farther than Joe himself might be comfortable with) what is commonly accepted as "traditional" quilting is really a set of patterns and techniques created by the quilting-industrial complex. These "traditional" patterns and techniques are like branded cattle, they can be traced back to their owners, purveyors of 20th century quilt patterns and kits. A maverick approach to quilting eschews these "traditional" patterns and techniques, it does not bear the brand of the quilting-industrial complex (unless you consider Joe, who does make his living teaching, among other things, this approach, a part of said complex - though arguably his is such a loose approach that you couldn't look at someone's quilt made using it and know for certain that it was the result of his approach - so the individual quilter's end product does not bear even Joe's brand).

In a sense, this approach harks back to pre-20th century improvisatory quilting in which women created without patterns or techniques beyond those they shared with one another on an interpersonal level. As a guild member noted at his lecture Monday evening, this process is very similar to that of the Gee's Bend Quilters. It strikes me as the type of approach that would appeal to the anti-corporate craft movement that all the lip-ringed, tattooed knitters and Threadbanger fashionistas are into these days (Of course that could be the result of my delusion that my inability to knit does not prevent me from being a cool crafter - quilting can be cool . . . really).

Perhaps most importantly for me, abandoning the pre-planning injects creativity into each step of the process. Making a quilt from a commercial pattern doesn't appeal to me because as far as I can tell, it's just manual labor. Designing an entire quilt and then making it front loads the creativity, which explains why a lot of my quilts stall out between the design phase and the execution phase. Once the quilt is all planned, it's just manual labor.

So what's the approach? It's a lot like Mona Brooks' Abstract Design Warm-Up from page 68 of Drawing with Children. Basically, you start with a piece of fabric approximately the size and shape of the quilt block you desire. We used a square, but I see no reason you couldn't start with a diamond or a triangle or a hexagon - any shape that can be tessellated. Then Joe presented two simple modifications to the block which totally reminded me of the Abstract Design Warm-Up's instructions,
Turn your paper in any direction you want.
Make three straight lines anywhere you want on the paper, but start the line on the edge of the paper and run it off another edge of the paper when you are done.
But where Abstract Design Warm-Up would just have you draw lines, in an exercise like Joe's each line would be cut with a rotary cutter and strips of fabric would be added before the next cut. Each cut is a creative act. Each fabric choice for a strip is a creative act. The only thing that repeats with each block you make is the set of "rules" Joe set out for us (or that you've set out for yourself). How you execute that set of rules can vary with each block - so each block requires a set of creative decisions. Once you've squared up (or diamonded up or triangled up or tesselated shaped up - which, given the sort of odd shape you get from the improvisatory piecing stage, turns squaring up into another creative decision), the process of laying out the blocks was a heckuva lot more interesting than your usual quilt design as each block was unique. And Joe spent time with each student working through their layout. How rarely do quilt students get to that stage in the process so they can really get some practice?

Everyone in the class was amazed at how far they got on their quilts in what was basically a six-hour class. Many people finished their whole top. Clearly this technique can produce creatively satisfying results in record time.

More generally, the lessons learned from this approach - even if the abstract "modern" quilts that result may not be your cup of tea - can be applied to other quilt projects. It can be a lesson in working with a limited color palette (many students, including myself, used only three fabrics). I found it to be one of the most relaxing times I've had quilting in a class, which is particularly impressive given that it was my first class with this guild, I didn't know anyone there, and I had never been to this shop before. The class sparked ideas for ways to incorporate improvisation at every stage of the quilt making process, which should help jump start my projects that are stalled at the design stage by injecting creativity into their manufacture. The practice arranging completed blocks can certainly inform the arrangement of any quilt where the blocks aren't all identical - like those with scrappy fabric choices or a sampler of many different kinds of blocks.

Not only did the Mona Brooks'-style design prompts remind me of my first and favorite quilt instructor, Jeanne Benson, like Jean, Joe established a very positive and open classroom environment. He set every student at ease by introducing himself individually. His comfort in front of the class, and in the presentation in front of the whole guild on Monday, really allowed the focus to be on learning rather than on the performance. He provided unconditional positive constructive feedback even in the face of die-hard pattern followers who were expressing a lot of self-doubt about their own creativity. He spent time at each stage of design with each student. And he encouraged group affirmation and participation in the design process by calling our attention to each student's work on the design wall. If you're looking for a guild workshop that isn't just another pattern or technique, i.e. that appeals to all tastes and skill levels, I highly recommend Joe Cunningham's "You Maverick, You."

FYI: The three fabrics I used in my blocks are Kaffe Fasset's Pansy in blue, Luana Rubin's Honey Bees and Clover in Lemonade Yellow from her Joie De Vivre line, and FunQuilts' bilaterally symmetric light blue print 1122-215.

Updated 10/18/08 to add: Joe blogged about the class and included a picture from the guild meeting of six completed tops from the workshop. It's a great picture that shows how different each quilt turns out even though they all started with the same design prompts.

Updated 1/26/2009 to add: If you'd like to read more about my impressions of Joe the Quilter's take on creativity and see individual pictures of each block I made in class, check out this post at my other blog.

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Cupcakes Not from a Box

Due to my stunning NYTCCC failure, I had to come up with an alternative dessert for dinner at friends'. So Saturday I made cupcakes from scratch. I didn't like grow the wheat and mill it myself or anything. But I did make both the batter and frosting from recipes not boxes. More specifically, I made the cake batter from the awesome recipe I found from Bake and Shake via Not Martha. The Quick Buttercream Frosting is from an ancient New York Times cookbook. Both got RAVE reviews. The male of the pair we dined with actually did a little dance in his chair, and he really didn't seem like the dance in his chair type.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cookies of Doom!

I just made the worst batch of NYTCCCs ever. They came out too crunchy, grainy, and with air pockets like a meringue. The culprit: Arrowhead Mills Organic Pastry Flour. The recipe calls for 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour. I had been using the only cake flour I could find: Pillsbury Softasilk Cake Flour. But then I went to the Henry's Farmers Market in Yorba Linda (which is much less sketchy than the one in Fullerton), and they had a wide array of organic flour options and though none of them were billed as "cake flour" I did find a number of pastry flours which claimed to be, to quote the Arrowhead Mills Organic Pastry Flour bag, "perfect for flaky and delicate pastries and CAKES." [Emphasis Added] This implies, to the unwary, that it might be substituted for cake flour. This I have found to be A WEB OF LIES!

It wasn't just the claim of cake-appropriateness that led me down the primrose path to cookie doom. The bag also explained that the flour had a "finer texture," "lighter consistency," and "lower gluten" - all admirable traits in a cake flour. So how did this substitution go so wrong?

I didn't even use a whole 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) Arrowhead Mills Organic Pastry Flour. I still had some Pillsbury Softasilk Cake Flour. So it was probably like 1/2 cup Pillsbury Softasilk Cake Flour and 1 1/2 cups minus 2 tablespoons Arrowhead Mills Organic Pastry Flour.

The dough was a little drier than usual. I noticed when I was cleaning up that there was some raw egg white on the counter - like when I cracked the egg some of the white didn't make it into the bowl. Could a 1/2 teaspoon of egg white contribute to this cookie tragedy?

Usually after I add the dry ingredients I only run the mixer on low and only until the dry ingredients are combined with the wet. Then when I add the chips I just run the mixer on low for maybe one or two rotations. This time, because the dough was a little drier than usual, I had to run the mixer a little longer after I added the dry ingredients just to get them to combine. And I think I ran the mixer a few more rotations than usual after adding the chips. Could this account for occasional air pockets like a meringue in some of the cookies?

Any thoughts on this tragedy?

Update: Dough of Doom Batch 2 was not nearly as horrible as Batch 1, but still not nearly as good as the usual dough. I baked them for 15 minutes instead of my usual 18. Extra crunchy edge, but soft enough in the middle. No air pockets like a meringue and slightly better texture, i.e. ever so slightly less grainy. Dough of Doom Batch 3, which had rested in the fridge for 48 hours, was even less grainy than Batch 2, which had only rested 24 hours. I bet between the advice in Rebecca's comment about sifting before measuring (or weighing) and letting the dough sit for a full 48 hours, this flour might totally redeem itself. I'll try that next time and let you know.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Debate commentary

Say what you like about McCain (believe me, I sure do), but I give him credit for not doing what everyone said he `needed' to do, which was turn the debate into an attack about Bill Ayers and/or any other guilt by association he could pull out.

It's the first time in a long time his maverickiness earned my respect.  (Arguably, it was the first time in a long time he was mavericky).  But classiness, mavericky or no, is a political tactic I always favor.

La Jolla's Seal Beach

I know they're not like koalas or anything, but seals are cute. So I thought I'd share my cute seal pictures. Don't you love it when a blog you enjoy reading for it's non-personal content suddenly devolves into sharing vacation photos when you KNOW the author is perfectly capable of sharing them via Snapfish or whatnot with just the few family members that might remotely care? Me too.

The above seal was rolling on a seaweed covered rock. He looked just like Augie rolling on our seaweed colored carpet.

This just does not seem like a relaxing position for a seal to maintain for any length of time. Yet this seal and a few others we saw were just as still as can be in this seal equivalent of Vrishikasana

P.S. I know pelicans are not seals. But they were at the same beach. So they're in the same post. Deal with my arbitrariness on SO many levels.

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Round Up

In this round up: cake not from a box, bread not from a box, churros not from a box, water from thin air (aren't you glad I didn't say "not from a box"?), save the planet by drinking less booze, ironing board cover, comic book shop, vote YES on Prop. 5

I made my own frosting the other day for a belated birthday cake for David. The frosting went over really well. Now I'm contemplating making a whole cake from scratch. Not Martha linked to this awesome recipe (I haven't tasted it, but I know it's awesome because one of the steps is "Wonder at your own glory."), so now I want to try it. I wonder if almond extract would have the same effect on David as an actual almond? I.e., should I substitute vanilla extract or risk turning my husband into The Exorcist baby?

In other, less nauseating, from scratch news, I baked my mom's recipe for yeast rolls for the first time the other day. Awesome. I had the yeast on hand because I was fantasizing about making challah after reading two weeks ago's Sunday New York Times Recipe Redux. Now CHOW has to tempt me with these new and short-cuttier no-kneed bread recipes from the New York Times. But they require a casserole dish with a lid to bake, which I don't have. Might have to go on another bakeware binge at Bloomies.

And how crazy is it that I had Mexican Chocolate Pot de Creme with churros in La Jolla this weekend on the eve of the Sunday New York Times publishing a recipe for churros?

I love the idea of a dehumidifier that produces potable water, via Re-Nest, but I totally wish this worked indoors instead of outdoors. Though if everyone in Georgia used this, that place might be a lot more comfortable to hang outside. Of course, they're in a drought, so it's kind of selfish to drink the humidity that could be made into a helpful cloud.

Mother Jones reports a study describing how food manufacture contributes to global warming and what specific changes to your diet to make to reduce your menu's greenhouse emissions. One suggestion: eliminate "'unnecessary' foods with little nutritional value like alcohol, which it says contributes 1.5 percent of emissions from food." Check. Another suggestion: eliminate chocolate, another "unnecessary" food. Now that's just crazy talk. But here are some other suggestions that some might consider less insane:

using microwaves more often, covering cooking pots for efficiency, shopping on the Internet, and accepting "different notions of quality"—presumably eating bruised peaches.

I have needed to recover my ironing board for so very very long. It's not as simple and intuitive as you'd think. Whip Up posted a link to a tutorial by Make Something. It's in a very pretty photo format. It doesn't seem to mention padding, so I might have to modify it so I can add a layer of Insul-bright batting. Without the padding the pattern of the metal of the ironing board comes through onto my fabric.

Unfortunately the coolest name ever for a comic book shop is already taken, The Secret Headquarters. But I think Bob's dream comic book shop could certainly be informed by the design aesthetic of The Secret Headquarters. Via DesignSponge.

I had the harrowing experience of learning that my in-laws had plain not voted on ballot referenda in their home state because the wording was so unclear, they weren't really sure what they would be voting for or against. If you think you might not vote on referenda in your state because you don't know enough about them, leave a comment with your state and I will do some research for you. Here in California, the Secretary of State has a lovely website with the full text of each proposition, and perhaps more importantly, a pro and con section to show you who supports and who opposes each proposition and why. This was pivotal in clarifying that Proposition 5 is NOT a horrible tough on crime pile of crap, like it sort of sounds from the text. In fact, it's full of smart alternative sentencing options as briefly mentioned by Prof. Berman in his Sentencing blog.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Cherry Blossom Festival

From weeping cherry tree (Barbados cherry)

As some of you may know, I like bonsai trees, although my record is decidedly spotty; I can usually keep them alive while I'm taking care of them, but I've moved a lot over the last decade, so I end up having to plant them in the ground or give them away.

Anyhow, in response to a dare from Sarah, I have a weeping cherry tree, which I haven't repotted or anything. So I guess it's barely a bonsai at all, since other than a little light pruning on occasion I haven't done anything bonsai-like to it. But it's doing quite well, and as you can see if you click the link, those little pink things aren't some kind of invading fungus, but actual blossoms.

If you can't see the slideshow, the pictures are available here.

This is actually a Barbados cherry, which is a different species (and, if it ever fruits, I think the cherries don't taste very good.) So if the blossoms look funny to you, that might be why.

Also, the little fellow looking up admiringly at the blossoms is from Aunt Jane; he's a little Japanese bear who's supposed to be good luck if you put him in your house looking out a window. I have him with the tree outside, looking out from the window sill, which hopefully is close enough.

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This weekend we went to San Diego to hang out with the in-laws who were in town for a conference. We took the train down there, which was amazing because for the most part it runs right along the ocean. We got to stay at the W Hotel, which is full of fun interior design stuff that was totally inspiring AND they had bath supplies from Bliss which were SO awesome. We got to eat with the in-laws for every meal and the concierge at the W hooked them up with reservations at two amazing dinner restaurants, Georges Contemporary in La Jolla and Cafe Agave in Old Town. But perhaps most importantly, we got to go to the San Diego Zoo! I didn't take tons of pictures, but I did document the koalas for a certain koala fanatic who will remain nameless >coughRebeccacough<.

Thank you to Bob, GIMP, and Grokking the GIMP by Carey Bunks for the knowledge and power to digitally enhance this last sleeping koala picture until it was perfection.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Furrday: Izzy Archives

From the same photo shoot as the previous Izzy Archives picture. Isn't he a spunky lil' fella?

"You're Bored and You're Boring"

Best teaching assistant confession of all time. True story, too. The students "loved it. Really."

Reminds me of the description of a Harvard psychology professor, Dr. William James, in Caleb Carr's The Alienist, "who had a habit of reclining on the floor when his students' participation was flagging and declaring that teaching was 'a mutual process.'"

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Arrests of Press at RNC

While I heard a tiny blip of news during the Republican National Convention that Amy Goodman of Democracy Now had been arrested, I didn't hear any follow up to that story. On the Media recently interviewed Ms. Goodman about her experience at the RNC and her thoughts on the repercussions of the systematic arrest of journalists demonstrated at that event. Do listen to the audio rather than just reading the transcript. The clip of her producer being arrested is terrifying.

Democracy Now has compiled news accounts of the arrests.

Banks More Dangerous to Our Liberties than Standing Armies

This week's Organic Consumers Association e-newsletter's quote of the week:

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.

Thomas Jefferson 1802