“They laughed at Fulton, they laughed at Bell, they even laughed at Edison. But this was genuine, heartfelt laughter… robust rolling waves of it, from deep down… the kind where you know they really mean it.”

— Joe Martin

Trouble in the fields…


Nanci Griffith’s Trouble In The Fields sounds charmingly naive now, when tons of food are being destroyed by farmers because governments have shut down most of their customers, many of which will never reopen. Just sayin’.

The version I like best is Maura O’Connell’s studio recording for A Woman’s Heart 2, but this performance with her and Nanci Griffith is good, too:

(embedding disabled; thanks, youtubes!)

Breadplay…


My baker’s percentage script has reached the point of being quite useful, but the code is currently a mess because I was exploring the problem space as I went (“code-doodling”). The grams-to-volume conversion has shaped up nicely, after the initial hurdle of dealing with the limitations of floating-point numbers; I’d input “2 pounds”, convert it to grams, and then convert it back to “1 pound 16 ounces”. After a few failed fudge factors, I decided to simply multiply the weight by 1.0001, which is just enough to flip the right bits without skewing the results.

My solution to the excessive-precision problem (“1/3 cup + 1 tbsp + ½ tsp + 1/16 tsp”) was to cut it off when the residue is less than 1/16 of the total weight. That is, if you need a full cup of something, you don’t care about adding something smaller than a tablespoon. I’ve considered adding “scant”, “rounded”, and “heaping” modifiers, but then I’d have to track which ingredients are liquid, because a heaping tablespoon of olive oil is… “messy”. I also decided that 1/16 tsp is so tiny that it’s not worth printing unless it’s the only measure (which means it usually only shows up for strong powdered ingredients or scaled-down recipes).

Why convert back to volume measurements in the first place? Because they’re a lot faster, and at home bread-baking sizes, only the flour really has to be weighed for consistent results. Bulky ingredients like seeds, nuts, raisins, or chocolate chips should be weighed, but won’t break the recipe if they’re off a bit. Water and milk are fine if you actually have decent measuring cups (I replaced my hit-or-miss glass ones with OXO’s squeezable silicone cups, which are accurate and pour better).

The three remaining features I want to add are conversion to/from tangzhong/yudane, scaling to preset sizes like “six large hamburger buns”, and slightly tweaking relative proportions while keeping the total weight constant, so you don’t end up with something like 1.2 eggs. The last one is the hardest, because it breaks the currently linear flow of the script, so I’ll have to create some objects and methods to encapsulate everything.

Then comes the web version, which will initially just be a standard POSTed form with pulldown menus for ingredients. Kind of messy, since I’m up to 100 distinct ingredients, and I’ll need an option for custom ingredients. I could go all AJAX-y on it, but I’m getting better at recognizing epicycles before I start working on them.

Here’s sample output for King Arthur Flour’s Japanese Milk Bread, that uses a tangzhong starter for softness and improved shelf life. They’re definitely soft, although I’ve never had a batch last long enough to test shelf life…

Ingredients
  15.0g bread flour (2 tbsp) -- tangzhong
  44.4g water (3 tbsp) -- tangzhong
  45.0g whole milk (3 tbsp) -- tangzhong
 120.0g whole milk (1/2 cup)
  56.7g unsalted butter, melted (4 tbsp)
  50.0g large egg (1)
  17.5g baker's dried milk (2 tbsp)
  49.5g sugar (1/4 cup)
   6.0g salt (1 tsp)
 300.0g bread flour (2 1/2 cup)
   9.3g instant yeast (1 tbsp)

Type         Grams  Baker's Percentage
----         -----  ------------------
TOTAL        713.5  226.5%  1 pound 9 ounces
flour        315.0  100.0%
water        236.6   75.1%
salt           6.0    1.9%
yeast          9.3    3.0%  (>1.5% too much?)
fat           55.4   17.6%
sugar         49.5   15.7%  sweet (use sugar-tolerant yeast)
egg           50.0   15.9%
tangzhong    104.4   33.1%  4.8% of flour, 1:5.6 ratio

You can see from the comments that they significantly increased the yeast to compensate for the high sugar content. Also, despite the high hydration, this isn’t a sticky dough, nor does it produce the sort of airy, irregular crumb that you’d expect, because much of the extra liquid is captured in the tangzhong (which is the whole point).

“Too close, a little too close”


Miu Nakamura gives some perspective on the use of wide-angle lenses by glamour photographers.

Meanwhile, on Amazon Japan:

Wait, better recalibrate:

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Random notes, Home Alone 2 edition


Peter Jackson owns Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The actual car, that is. Also, I don’t think I ever knew that the original novel was written by Ian Fleming, but I’m not the least bit surprised that the movie script was by Roald Dahl. I remembered Benny Hill being in it, of course.

One of the few survivors of The War On Cheesecake is the somewhat deceptively-named Big Boobs Japan. Deceptive because small ones are well-represented, as are women from countries other than Japan. The catch is that the site is hooked up with some very sketchy ad networks, making it necessary to surf with Javascript disabled. One of the most annoying tricks used is an invisible layer that covers the page so that your first click launches an ad in a pop-under, and then loads the pictures you thought you were selecting. Many pictures are hosted on external networks that have their own JS infestations that launch even more ads.

Despite this, it’s actually less annoying than a lot of sites that have recently ramped up their Google ad placement to the point that every scroll event triggers another round of ads that reflow the page; probably 2/3 of the cooking sites I’ve visited in the past few weeks have done this to their recipe pages. I’ve switched to Brave for any ad-infested site that I still want to visit, because Piholio isn’t catching the avalanche of Google ads or the BBJ nonsense, and I sometimes forget to hit my JS-disable hotkey.

That Semolina Sandwich Bread I made last week turned out to be the least-successful KAF recipe I’ve ever made, because the flavor of the sesame seeds and cornmeal overwhelmed anything else in a sandwich. I’m not sure why they had cornmeal in there to begin with, since it did nothing good for the texture, but my next loaf will use the dinner-roll recipe from the back of the bag of semolina flour, which is a completely different beast. I’m scaling the loaf size with Baker’s Percentages.

With a Perl script, of course, since I couldn’t find a BP calculator online that combined a comprehensive volume/weight conversion table, the ability to scale to arbitrary sizes like “six large hamburger buns”, and reverse-conversion of the scaled ingredients to US volume measures (although I haven’t decided where to cut off the excessive precision; “1/3 cup + 1 tbsp + ½ tsp + 1/16 tsp” is neither practical nor useful). While I was at it, I added fat and sugar percentages and the ability to download comics from the future, because I never know when to stop.

The problem with draining the swamp is that the earth has settled.

CNAME hardest hit:

PSA:

Watch out for the one with the goatee:

If the moon looks like this, check for giant spiders. Or wave motion guns:

3d cheesecake 28: breaking quarantine


After the last set, it’s become clear that it’s cruel to keep kittens indoors in lovely Spring weather (sunny and 72°F here today), and also clear that everyone’s getting restless.

Unrelated, I filed my taxes on the 14th. My California refund was direct-deposited on the 20th, and the federal one on the 22nd. Since my 2019 income put me waaaaaay outside the range for stimulus checks, this was a pleasant surprise. As was getting refunds in the first place; I pretty much broke even last year.

Also, one of my non-essential Amazon deliveries originally promised by mid-May will instead arrive this Friday. Sorry, Brickmuppet.

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Random notes, Home Alone edition


Looks like King Arthur Flour has both SAF Red and Gold yeast in stock now, as well as Red Star Active Dry (2-pound bag). No flour yet (unless you need gluten-free, paleo, or almond), although they recently mentioned shipping out several million bags to retailers, and shifting some distribution from rail to truck to get it out faster. The SAF availability is interesting, since it’s made in Mexico.

Oh, and it’s reported that Trump will be temporarily banning all immigration by executive order. Throw in one about mandating in-person paper ballots, and the Left will be leaking fluids at both ends. Do H-1Bs, and Silicon Valley will suddenly discover that the skills you were looking for were with you all along.

If your fancy rice cooker includes a pressure option, turn it off before making barley rice. It will still work, but even when filled to only half capacity, cleaning up the heavily-starched water that escapes through the valve is like being a janitor on a porn shoot.

I’m keeping at best an idle eye on the stock market, because I have enough cash to stay afloat until at least October without selling any stock, as I hunt for a new job. It’s comforting to realize that even with all its ups and downs, the market is in better shape than at any point during the Obama administration.

On that note, it’s not something I need, but you can now borrow up to 100% from your 401K without penalty, with interest-only payments for 2020, or, if you got bit by Corona-chan or laid off, take a no-penalty hardship withdrawal.

Sharwood’s Red Curry sauce neither smells nor tastes like any Thai curry I’ve ever had, anywhere. Not bad, but not what I expected or wanted.

The rubber they use for Swiffer pads degrades pretty severely. I went into the garage, picked mine up, and half the pad stayed stuck to the wall. Walmart had them in stock, although it was amusing to see some of the brand-X replacements they’re stocking right now for other cleaning products.

Related, it always freaks me out a little when I clean house. I am by nature a clutter slob, and gradually accumulate piles of books, music, hobbies-in-progress, electronics, and clean laundry. I walk around them without noticing, then clean and wonder where all the space came from.

I remembered very little about a certain children’s book, to the point that my search string was “tony tina soup”.This proved to be sufficient.

If you didn’t stock your home gym a month ago, too bad. Also, don’t expect the supply chain to refill quickly, because guess where most equipment is produced and shipped from, particularly plates, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc? Mine’s in good shape (coughcough) because I’ve had an elliptical cross-trainer for many years that still works, and I splurged on Rogue kettlebells several years ago. My only complaint about Rogue’s product is that the handles aren’t quite wide enough to comfortably do two-handed moves, so I plan to buy Aders in some of the larger sizes (40 & 44-kilo) later this year.

Currently I’m mixing the Skogg system workouts with elliptical/anime runs and loaded carries (overhead, rack, and farmer’s walk); since I only have one each of the 28, 32, and 36-kilo bells, I’m using a 4-kilo strap-on ankle weight to create balanced pairs, and extending my distance to 60 yards (three loops around the first floor of the house).

Related, while I like the Skogg workouts, I found their 60-day challenge quite disappointing. I expected online critiques and feedback from Michael, and instead got Sue’s fad diet and a list of dubious supplements. This was several years ago, but the occasional email offer I get doesn’t suggest that it’s changed much. I hear they’ve got a book out on it, but I’ve never looked to see what’s in it.

Speaking of anime, I finished season 1 of Bokuben over the weekend, and started on season 2 last night. Fumino is best girl, but I find Mafuyu quite appealing as the grown-up choice. Also, she’s an ace with a rifle, at least when it comes to winning carnival prizes.

The entire world has been getting a fast, sharp lesson in the value, limits, and abuses of computer modeling. It’s like watching the global-warming debate play out at 1000x speed.

Amazon’s current variable-speed shipping is based on how products are classified. Surprisingly, given my long history of poking fun at their classification and recommendation systems, it seems to be mostly working:

  • Ankle compression sleeves? 3 days.
  • OXO dish scrubber? 4 days.
  • Cat treat that’s actually a relabeled cooking ingredient? 5 days.
  • Bamboo bookcase? 7 days.
  • Out-of-print book from the Heibonsha Survey Of Japanese Art (fulfilled by Amazon)? 7 days.
  • Bread knife? 12 days.
  • Bluray box sets of ZombieLand Saga and Restaurant To Another World? 22 days.
  • Cookbook? 23 days.
  • Kitchen measuring spoons? 23 days.

Related, UPS just told me I’ve got a package from Amazon coming today, which doesn’t match any of my orders. Must be a gift from someone. (the monthly order of canned fruit and coffee is late because they simply don’t have most of it; I’ll get half of the fruit in a few days)

By the way, the cookbook is the original Joy of Cooking, without the curse of having been “updated for modern tastes”, which is a bit like calling Twiggy an updated version of Cynthia Myers, when they’ve really just cut out useful fats. Far too many cookbooks sacrifice flavor and nutrition on the altar of ever-changing federal guidelines and fad diets. That said, I thought Twiggy looked pretty hot in The Blues Brothers, but she was older and looked like she was eating regularly.

While I have my issues with Trump’s reopening plan, its metrics are measurable, predictable, and based on the best medical information available at any given time. The well-defined two-week intervals offer increased confidence for people making economic decisions (such as “should I switch my commercial production facility over to retail packaging”, “can I reopen in time to make payroll”, or “am I better off breaking the lease now and declaring bankruptcy”). The plan also forces governors to make tough choices:

  1. do what Trump says.
  2. say he’s too timid, and take all the risk of an increased body count.
  3. say he’s too aggressive and lard up your plan with less-well-thought-out conditions, taking all the resposibility for lost jobs and failed businesses.
  4. cheat like crazy and hope CNN’s got your back.

The problem with 2-4 is that Trump has a daily forum to smack them around, and despite their best efforts, the mass media hasn’t been able to silence it.

Q: What actor was in both Excalibur and Krull?

A: Liam Neeson.

Thanko: the little dishwasher that could


I’m sorry, but if you live alone, and your apartment kitchen is so small that it doesn’t have a dishwasher, why the hell are you wasting $300 and your precious counter space on this silly thing?

Oh, wait; maybe your kitchen isn’t tiny, it’s just pretentious:

And this is really going to impress that special one-and-only guest that you can have over for dinner:

A later picture reassures the potential customer that it’s small enough (16x16x17 inches) that even women can easily lift it (30 pounds).

Social Distancing, Easter Edition


Corona-chan won’t be gettin’ all up in her face!