Sourdough Loaf #3

Late evening, took starter out of the fridge, and added 1/2 cup bread flour and 1/2 cup water. Whisked it around to a wonderful consistency and let it sit overnight at room temperature – which is about 67 degrees on the stove. I usually take the rubber seal off the jar, and close the lid with out it, and let the jar sit in a larger container in case volcanic fermentation ensues. Today at 2 I took 1 cup of starter and added it to 1 cup bread flour with 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 to 2/3 cup water. The dough was too wet so I added another 1/4 cup flour, and then had to add more and more until it became dry enough to knead and not be completely sticky. I kneaded it for a few minutes, and shaped it into a boule before dumping it into a bowl coated with olive oil. Then I flipped it over, smooth side up and placed it into the oven with a light bulb, which should get to 80 degrees or so.
Given the starter method with no added yeast, I never know how long it will take to rise, but so far I’m always pleasantly surprised when I check it to see if it’s doubled. This loaf will be just about the right size. Kind of small, but since I’m the one who eats most of it, it won’t go to waste. After 2 hrs it had doubled, so I dumped it out onto a floured cutting board and shaped it into a loaf before placing it on a narrow wooden cutting board coated with corn meal to rise again. After another hour I cut some slits in the top and slipped it into a 400 degree oven for 35 minutes. It came out great. I was impressed with the texture. The higher protein content of the bread flour seemed to make it less crumbly and more substantial.

Calzones for dinner

Axl was very happy having spent the day with his mom at Science City. During dinner he was very talkative, telling me all the details of various displays and activities in his 5 year old voice. I had a relatively quiet day at work, still stuck in my office in a deserted area while construction is going on. Made calzones for dinner tonight using the extra package of dough from Trader Joes. The dough is nice to work with because it’s not too sticky, which I guess means it simply isn’t over wet. However, I have to learn better ways of rolling it out. I try using both my hands and a wooden roller, but it can be tough like chewing gum. You roll it, getting it to stretch out, and it laughs at you and shrinks back to it’s original size. All the while it seems as if a thick lip is forming around the edge of the dough. It worked out pretty well nonetheless. I cut the pound of dough into three pieces, and after rolling one out I brushed the surface with olive oil, sprinkled a little salt, just like for pizza, and then made a strip of pizza sauce before layering cheese and pepperoni (for Axl), and added sauteed mushrooms and yellow peppers (for K and I), a little more cheese, a little grating of Parmesan, and then folding one side over and sealing with a pinch and pressing of a fork along the seal. I painted the surface with an egg wash, lifted it onto the pizza peel with cornmeal and slid it into a 450 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. They came out perfect golden brown and puffed up. For the marinara I mixed half pizza sauce half ragu. K likes Ragu, and I haven’t found a way to compete with the convenience.

Jumping and swimming

Alec made a breakthrough today swimming in the pool. There was another kid who showed up with his father, and they went over to the blue cabinets and put on a snug fitting flotation vest. The kid then started jumping into the pool from the side, and swimming around. I think Alec was intrigued. I put a vest on him, and we went over and started jumping in the pool too. It was the 1 foot mark. Kim took him over to the two foot mark, and he jumped in over and over again. He also held on the side of the pool and practiced kicking with his body floating. This is something I had tried to teach him before, but the vest really made a difference. The best part for me was that he started paddling and kicking, and this swimming with the help of the vest, all on his own. He would jump in, laugh, and then pitch himself forward, holding his breath as his mouth dipped just under the water for a brief second, before he stabilized and could kick and paddle for a bit. It was jilarious watching him jump in. There were two white tiles in the cement at the two foot mark. One had the number 2, the other had a “no diving” symbol. He would go up to them, and cover each with a foot. Then he would bend over and do some pointing at the tiles while he talked to himself about how his feet were aligned or something. Then he would step off the tiles and jump in. Eventually we got him to jump in at the 3 foot mark. I was so happy that other kid was there to spur him on.

economics of skepticism

While listening to a radio report on the South Korean reaction to the death of Kim Jong Il, I heard an interview of an old man saying something about how he believed that some spirits in the hills were going to cause some bad event to happen. The interviewer took it in stride as if the man were describing what he ate for breakfast. Some people believe in spirits, there’s nothing to react to. Many people believe in things that can’t be proven, or even explained very well. But I was struck. Why did this man believe such things? No sooner has I asked myself the question, when the answer came to me: because he could. It was as if everyone has a budget for how much thought or time they can devote to belief in things they can’t possibly prove to anyone else, or provide evidence for. Some people have more room in their budget for nonsense than others. In my own life, I make a living trying to drill down into “objective reality”, which I’ll admit, is a slippery problematic statement that neds more qualificatio, more on that later. But let’s just say it’s the kind of stuff that only exists if everyone agrees it exists under critical scrutiny and experimentation via the scientific method. I can’t depend on spirits, or invoke theories unless they can survive immense scrutiny by people that are much smarter than me. On the other hand, I know people who make a living being slippery with tantalizing but impossible to prove explanations for how the world works. What is the cost for believing in things that are impossible to prove?

Saturday Swimming

Saturday was our last swimming class at the YMCA. I’m not sure if Alec got anything out of it, but it was fun to spend time with him on a planned scheduled basis, and I think he’s getting better at going under water. At one point during the class I was having him sit on the edge of a slide overhanging the water, so he could jump or fall into the water and have some fun while learning to hold his breath. We’ve done this several times – but I’d never really let him fall into the water completely. Rather, I always held on to him and moderated his fall, just letting his face go a little under water. But this time, I let him fall without really holding on to him. I thought he would make a splash and then have some buoyancy keeping him in arm’s reach so I could just reach out and lift his head above water. Instead, I was shocked that he fell into the water and then sank like a stone.He was out of arms reach and I had to go under myself to get him, and at the same time figure out a way to grab onto him and pull him up to the surface. He’d never been under water for more than half a second, but this time he was out of reach and as I was reaching down and grabbing him I could count one second, two seconds, three seconds, four….up and head out of the water. I thought it would be bad. I sort of expected him to have breathed in some water, and he would start coughing violently, crying, or perhaps throw up. But he was ok. I think he was a little shocked and scared. But he grabbed on to me after wiping the water away from his face and eyes, and coughing a little, and he said, “I ok papa.”
As we walked to the car afterwards. He narrated the other cars leaving the parking lot. “Dat one goes¬† down the hill bye bye.”

Dinner time translation at our house: da hee = strawberry. Alec is learning to say more words pretty rapidly. Sometimes he just gets the phonetic shape, but it impresses me nonetheless. He knows the meaning of many more words than he can say. There’s a picture of his classmates ont he fridge (7?) and he cnpoint them out when Kim says their names. He can also count to three.


He stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting or a Tom Waits song, and onto my front porch. He had a hardened face, but was soft spoken. He looked off into the distance as he told me his family history, which gave me a chance to notice he was neatly dressed. He asked for 12 bucks to rake the leaves, which I gladly gave him. Every 3 minutes he would pause and elocute another vignette, softly, such that I could barely hear him as I bagged the leaves. When he was done he walked off down the street, back to his small apartment, or the liquor store, or to hop that freight train back to another generation…bye Rex.

Memories misplaced

Earlier this week the weather was finally getting warmer after a long cold winter. On Monday I met Kim and Alec at the park after work. Alec was getting really excited about going down the slide. He laughs and gets all riled up by the quick little ride down the chute. He’s just getting to the point that he can hold himself up as he slides down without falling backwards…almost. I still have to provide a little guidance. When he gets to the bottom he tries to get up and sort of run somewhere even though he doesn’t really run, or know where to go. He’s just excited and has to exert himself somehow.
On Thursday it was another nice day, and after work I took Alec out to the lawn. It was the first time since he could walk that we could go outside and run around on the grass or the sidewalk. I wanted to see what he would do if he was left to simply roam around in free space. He got excited and wanted to take off down the sidewalk, but with no concept of what what sidewalks meant he would just go straight out into the street. Since it was the day before trash pickup, it turned out he was heading for people’s trash bags.
He also became quote upset when I tried to take him back inside. Apparently he enjoyed the freedom. The lawn has a slope at the end, and he has no concept of slopes, or stairs, so he tends to run off the edge, or down the slope causing him to fall over. I realized I could burn up some energy by putting him on the flat part of the lawn, and letting him run towards me down the slope, but I would catch him before he fell on his face. We did that over and over again. He was still upset when it came time to go inside.
This weekend snow ws forecast, and snow it did. We got about 10 inches. I went to get my video camera to film Alec opening a card from Mom, but I couldn’t find it. I had a memory of having the camera outside to film Alec, but putting it down to grab him before he fell over, or ran into the pond in the back while I was demucking it. He doesn’t know about pond edges either. I was sure Ihad left the camera outside, and that it was buried in snow. What’s worse, I hadn’t downloaded any video for months. I figured there was probably 1/3 of Alec’s life on the memory card, including our trip to Napa for Thanksgiving.
I went out several times to look through the snow with a rake, both in the back yard and in the front. People must have thought I was whacky raking snow around the front bushes. I wondered if I had left it on the lawn, and someone had taken it. Would they return it?¬† Would they clear the memory chip? Who wants to watch boring video of people you don’t know? I also realized how boring much of the video I shoot is, and how perhaps I cold make it more interesting by asking people questions and having more dialogue.
As the snow melted over the last two days, I continued to lurk around looking for the camera. I had just about given up, when out in the back, next to the patio table, laying on the ground with the lens cap off, was the camera. Wet and dirty. I felt a great sense of relief. Whether the camera still worked or not, I wasn’t concerned, I just hoped the memory chip was intact.

A Target of Religion

Driving around running errands I was reminded that I live in the midwest when I pulled up to the Target “Greatland”. I was wondering what that really meant. Did it refer to the whole country or just this part of it? Why just this region? If this region is great, isn’t the whole country great? Does it mean great as in size, or great as in value? Who thought to make that part of the title anyway? My questions were interrupted when I found myself being proselytized by the personalized license plate on the car in front of me, which had the designation: GT2GOD. A command from a license plate, to go forth and find religion. I got out of the car and started walking towards the store, only to see that the car opposite me on the other side of the isle read: RIP4JES. Which I took as another command: Die for Jesus.

Things that happened to me this week. I bought two live basil plants at a market across town for $1.99 each. The ground is still frozen so I was happy to get a head start on my favorite herb for the spring. I got them home and realized I had nothing to plant them in, so I cut two plastic bottles and planted them with some dirt from outside that was frozen between my fingers. After a few days I was happy to see the roots creeping through to the sides. I was also happy because I saw the same plants yesterday at my local market for $4.99.
I woke up today to find email announcing that a manuscript I worked on has been accepted to a famous academic journal. This collaboration started as an email I received while in Santa Margherita, Italy. It’s a great feeling to have a productive project come to fruition, and make it out into the world.
People protested “the body” exhibit at Union Station. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I live in a part of the country where people will come out to protest an exhibition of the human body.