Weekend Links

I’m back! Happy New Year! I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2016. It will be an interesting year for personal and political reasons. Let’s start with the personal.

My wife received a job offer from a non-profit organization based in New York. I can’t really explain how proud I am of her for working so hard on her job search, finding an opportunity that looks to be a great fit, and impressing so much that she received an offer. She accepted the position and starts this coming Monday already.

I’ll go visit her in a few weeks but then I come back to China to work the spring semester for the school I helped found, Ivy Language Academy. I’ll stay here through June and will apply for graduate school programs and jobs with the hopes of starting something this coming summer or fall. With my wife landing in New York, I couldn’t ask for a better geographic region to target. Plus, most of my family including my parents and brother live in the NY/NJ area, so that’s great!


The pictures above were taken at Weishan (巍山) here in Yunnan Province. The students in my adult class and I took a little trip together on the day of Christmas Eve. Weishan is a county seat with some buildings preserved from its old town center. It also has a claim to historical importance for the role people there and in surrounding areas played in the rise of the Nanzhao Kingdom. Actually, Weishan has one of the nicest and best-designed museums I have ever seen in China, especially for such a small town. Check it out if you ever visit and learn more about Nanzhao and the local area.

Weishan is a good overnight trip from Dali. Get there by 10am, walk through the old town, go to the museum, peruse “Snack Street” and then go get some noodles. Don’t miss the “Over the River Noodles” (过江饵丝) pictured above. I don’t usually love rice noodles but these were fantastic. Then, visit Weibo Shan (巍宝山) in the afternoon. This is a still living Taoist temple complex that is nice to walk around.

A couple that are friends with one of my students played hosts for the day. They live and work in Weishan and couldn’t have been nicer hosts. We wrapped up the day at the husband’s place of business, a tree nursery, where they treated us to some local dishes, including a spicy donkey meat that wasn’t bad. I’m not proud of it, but I avoided the tripe. Tripe is one kind of Chinese dish, along with congealed blood and very fatty meat, that I’ve just never gotten used to.

We returned to Dali the same evening since several of us had to work the next day. But it was a late return and the road back to Dali was mountainous, winding and not well-lit, and frankly, dangerous. If you have the time I recommend booking a room in one of the several guest houses that have popped up to take advantage of Weishan’s growing popularity with tourists. Take it easy, stay the night, and it’s safer to travel back in daylight.


I haven’t written in a while due to several factors: my wife accepting a job offer back in the US just a few weeks ago meant I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible; we threw a really nice Christmas party for the kids at our school that took quite a bit of planning; Christmas isn’t a holiday here so it’s regular old busy work schedule for me; and oh yeah, I had to move on the 31st. My new living situation is a post in itself that I’ll try to write this coming week. But generally it’s fine and comfortable, and importantly, cheaper. No sense in living in luxury when it’s just me and we could use the money as we resettle back in the US.


To the links. I haven’t been keeping up with the news as much as I’d like so this installment is brief:

  • Who knew renowned brain surgeons could be useful idiots? Or does Dr. Ben Carson know exactly what he’s doing and is happy to ride the gravy train til it stops? Either way, looks like the grifters involved with Carson’s campaign have taken complete control and look for him to be toast after Iowa. At best he’ll be a dead man walking when the pious Iowa hayseeds who are Carson’s base don’t deliver him a top two finish. I guess that’s one less crazy guy that could become president.
  • Let’s check in with the polls again, here and here. Nationally and in specific early states things continue to look not so good for the Republican establishment. Let’s be generous and say we don’t know how to classify Rand Paul (2.8%), Carly Fiorina (2.5%), or Mike Huckabee (2.0%). That means the candidates unpalatable at best to the establishment – Donald Trump (35%), Ted Cruz (19.5%), and Carson (8.8%) – combine for 63.3%. That’s against 22.4% combined for establishment candidates: Marco Rubio (11.5%), Chris Christie (4.8%), Jeb Bush (4.3%), and John Kasich (1.8%).
  • An optimistic establishment Republican might look at Rubio’s trendline in New Hampshire and think that a respectable third place finish in Iowa accompanied by a Trump second place finish there will give Rubio an opening to actually win New Hampshire. That optimistic establishment Republican should probably not read this by Alex Pareene. A sample:

    The idiocy of Rubio’s “plan” to “win” the nomination cannot be overstated: It’s not just untested; it’s more or less what a political scientist and a veteran campaign strategist would collaboratively design as a hypothetical worst-practices presidential campaign strategy.

  • The Democratic Party’s race is a straightforward two-person affair. Hillary Clinton will win unless something big happens to shake up the race. She has leads basically everywhere and it’s doubtful she and her team will make the same ground organization mistakes they made in 2008. Bernie Sanders could and maybe will win in New Hampshire, but where does he go from there? Theoretically a boost out of New Hampshire can make him more competitive elsewhere, but it’s doubtful. None of this is to say I wouldn’t want Sanders to win or that he should stop contesting the nomination. Actually, I think he could win the general election against any Republican but especially if that party’s nominee is Trump or Cruz. It’s just the math is what it is, and Clinton is – gasp! – a good solid Democratic Party candidate, thanks in part to Sanders’s candidacy.
  • So, as we get rolling in 2016 let’s ask the question: Who’s going to win the 2016 presidential election? I think Clinton will win the Democratic nomination and then the presidency. If she can assemble a coalition resembling that which elected President Obama twice, the 2016 election won’t even be that close.
  • I feel much less confident predicting the Republican nominee. I’m starting to think that Cruz may have a chance at both the nomination and the presidency. But if Trump holds on to win New Hampshire while continuing to look strong elsewhere, then you have to like his chances, at least for the nomination. The establishment really doesn’t like either of those guys (though I think they’ll hold their noses for Cruz) so if Rubio or any of their other preferred candidates show signs of life expect the establishment to rally that person’s way hard. All that’s to say, I don’t even want to predict the Republican race. For now I say it’s a coin flip between Trump and Cruz, but I still think an establishment type has time to find footing.
  • Cruz worries me in a general election because the average voter probably won’t know who he is until the summer and if anything should happen to shake up the fundamentals of the race – economic crisis, terrorist attack, etc. – the out-party will start looking more attractive to the “independent” voter. True independents are people who pay little or no attention to politics and basically flip a coin at election time, with the coin weighted a bit towards the in-party if things are good or the out-party if things are bad. Not enough of these voters actually exist in the wild to influence recent elections driven by fundamentals, but a major crisis that reflects poorly on Obama will push these voters and maybe even some usually reliable Democratic voters towards the Republican, no matter who that is, and especially if he or she isn’t Trump. I think Cruz has a decent shot to redefine himself, George W. Bush-like, as a regular guy you want to go hunting with in time for the general election (maybe it goes without saying but I think Trump will NOT be able to do this). If Cruz can pull that off in a close election, the fate of the country may be in the hands of the people who know the least about its politics. Happy 2016!

 

 

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Weekend Links

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Duck, wraps in the vacuum pack, and sauce in the yellow package.
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The treasures: a large cubic zirconia, some kind of Christmas thing that broke, a 2+1 Nescafe instant coffee, and a homemade bookmark, I think.

I had no idea just how powerful this blog could be until yesterday. Recently, I wrote about how we used to have Beijing-style roast duck for Thanksgiving. On Saturday, a student who had just come back from Beijing brought me a duck from the very restaurant about which I had written. No way that kid reads this blog. It must be magic! I guess I need to write a post about how nice it would be to have, oh, let’s say 10 million dollars. No need to be greedy.

One of the perks of being a teacher is getting gifts from students. Another student gave me a gift later that day. You can see it wrapped in one of the pictures above. Since the wrapping was see-through, I just assumed it was a small cake. A bit busy all weekend, I forgot about it until after lunch this afternoon. I noticed it when I was about to head back to work, and noting its existence to my wife, she said I should put it in the fridge. I did, though I’m not really sure why she suggested that or why I obeyed.

I always want to thank students for their gifts because it’s the right thing to do and I’d hate for them to think they aren’t appreciated. So this afternoon I made a point of thanking the student, a 9-year old who goes by the English name Gloria, for her gift, saying it was really tasty. Then she cried out in Chinese that it wasn’t something to eat! I told her I knew that (I didn’t) and that I was just joking (I wasn’t). That’ll teach me to lie to little kids!

I opened the gift after dinner tonight and you can see its contents in the above pictures. Such a sweet collection of little treasures. The kids all know I like drinking coffee as I often use that as a language example. Same goes for reading as one of my hobbies. Christmas is coming soon, I guess. But I’m really not sure what about me says cubic zirconia. It slays me that she gave me such a big one with a nice chip broken off it.

Anyway, I will thank her for the specific contents next week. It’s nice to end the day with such a warm feeling.

So much for the warm feeling. Links for the weekend:

  • Just awful news out of Colorado Springs. If only there was a word that begins with the letter “t” to describe incidents like this one when white men use violence in the pursuit of political aims. Though he didn’t use the word that apparently cannot be used when white men use violence in the pursuit of political aims, good on Obama for not otherwise mincing words.
  • I see already that gun rights absolutists are trotting out different versions of “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” in response to the shootings. Stop, please. Cars don’t get people to work; people get people to work. Forks and knives don’t cut up food and put it in people’s mouths; people cut up food and put in their mouths. This is asinine. You’re not children. We’re not children. Time to put away childish rhetoric and think about what’s happening out in the real world.
  • Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone wonders what it means that Donald Trump can lie with impunity and concludes that the media itself is largely to blame. TPM‘s Josh Marshall reminds us why lies, insults, and refusing to apologize for one’s lies and insults works with the Right.
  • I share Marshall’s exasperation with much of the media for belatedly and grudgingly coming to realize that the Trump phenomenon is a thing that is real and that he has a real constituency. The inmates are close to complete control of the asylum and many of us have seen this coming since at least 2010. Even if Trump loses, which Marshall thinks is still likely, the Republican Party is beholden to the people fueling his rise. These would be the people who give us deposed Speakers of the House and government shutdowns.
  • This piece about the stupid pieces about arguing with your racist uncle during Thanksgiving made me laugh a few times. The author, Jeb Lund, says we shouldn’t argue politics at Thanksgiving; instead, save the energy for arguing against deep-fried turkey. Is Lund right? I’ve never actually had deep-fried turkey.
  • Not exactly the kind of positive note with which I want to end these links posts, but a good friend of mine passed on this article about “coywolves.” I want one.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I’m wearing the oven mitt. Another one of our teachers, Collin, is standing to my left. Next to Collin is one of our Chinese teachers, and the rest are students. We were trying to pose for a couple of cameras at the same time, which explains how nobody seems to be looking at the same place.

Thanksgiving came early this year to Dali, Yunnan Province, China. That’s because Thanksgiving is not actually a holiday in China and not wanting to teach our Friday morning classes in a post-feast stupor, Collin (pictured with me above) and I decided to host Thanksgiving dinner for students in our adult classes on Wednesday night and give ourselves actual Thanksgiving Day to recover.

Unfortunately, fewer than half of our adult students were able to attend (again, Thanksgiving is not an actual holiday here and the day we chose ended up working out poorly for quite a few of our students). But the ones who came seemed to have a good time and enjoyed the food, or so they said!

They definitely liked my wife’s sweet potato pie, which you can read about here if you’re interested. If they were only pretending to like it, well, they deserve Oscars. My wife’s pie was definitely the star of the dinner.

It’s hard to choose between the two funniest descriptions, overheard in Chinese, of our strange foods. One student said that my stuffing tasted like Chinese medicine. Actually, I thought it turned out well, especially since I used enough bread for this batch. Maybe it has to do with the seasonings (thyme and rosemary) that they had never heard of. Or maybe it was so bad that it really did taste like Chinese medicine.

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My stuffing is in the big tray on the near end of the table, next to my wife’s sweet potato pie, the unquestioned champion of the evening.

The other funny description was of Collin’s sourdough bread. This was also very new for the students, and while they seemed to like it (and I thought it was good, too, FWIW), they kept calling it “ugly bread” in Chinese.

I guess the winner for funniest description is saying my stuffing tasted like Chinese medicine, if only because it turned out exactly as it was supposed to but didn’t quite bridge the cultural gap in culinary taste. The stuffing was the only leftover nobody wanted to take home (except for me, and Collin if he wasn’t just being nice). Collin’s bread was in a little more demand.

Our menu also included roast chicken legs, which I marinated in lemon and lime juices, olive oil, garlic, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried rosemary, salt, and black pepper. Collin made a huge batch of mashed potatoes, which were excellent. And I made a gravy from the chicken drippings, butter, flour, milk, salt, and ground cayenne and black pepper. We all ate too much and have too many leftovers, which I guess is what Thanksgiving is all about!

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I roasted 60 (!) chicken legs. I put way too many at a time in our small ovens, which is why they took more like 45 minutes rather than the 20-30 minutes (at 450 degrees) called for in the recipe I referenced.

And, Thanksgiving is also about being thankful. This year, I’m thankful for my wife, Ligaya Beebe. We’ve been together for more than seven years now, and married almost two and a half. We’re in the process of trying to move back to the US, and it is stressful at times, but I’m really happy and thankful that we’re doing it together. I’m a lucky guy.

I’m thankful for my parents and my brother, who have all been supportive of me in spite of my decision to live abroad for so long. I couldn’t have asked for better, more loving parents, and I’m grateful to my brother for picking up my slack over the years.

I’m also thankful for the friends I’ve made in China over these 11 years. They’ve helped me spend nice Thanksgivings away from home and family. I often regret that I haven’t been home for more Thanksgivings, and it’s been a real help to celebrate my favorite holiday with friends both foreign and local while living in China.

I’m also thankful for the opportunity Shambala Foundation has given me to play a lead role in creating an English-language training center. It’s very rewarding. We moved to Dali in 2013, started designing from scratch, opened Ivy Language Academy with 18 students in March 2014, and now we see a training center with 60+ students enrolled, plus we designed and are implementing the English-language curriculum for a private primary school, and we have our foot in the door of the educational tourism industry thanks to my wife’s leadership and hard work. That’s success by any definition. I’m thankful for the opportunity to make it happen, and I’m grateful to the organization’s leadership and the team that really made it all possible.

Finally, I want to say thank you to everyone who reads this blog. Honestly, the blog doesn’t have much of a readership in terms of numbers, but I’m very grateful for both the encouraging words and the challenges to think things through more deeply. Writing this blog is fundamentally an egotistical exercise, and if it somehow attracts readers who find it interesting and/or want to debate the ideas, well, that’s more than it deserves, and I’m thankful for it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sweet Potato Pie Guest Post

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Our Thanksgiving spread, with one of the sweet potato pies on the near end of the table, wedged between gravy, spicy radishes, and stuffing.

The following is a guest post by my wife, Ligaya Beebe. Her sweet potato pie was the star of our Thanksgiving dinner, which I’ll write about later in my own post. Anyway, take it away Ligaya:

This recipe is a relatively faithful adaptation of this recipe which is itself an adaptation from Cook’s Illustrated.

Pie Dough

1-1/4 cups flour

½ tsp salt

1 tbs sugar

4 tbs unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces

3 tbs bacon fat, chilled

4-5 tbs ice water

I watched a few youtube videos before making this because it was my first time making pie dough. My favorite advice came from Hands That Cook. She suggests you only make pie dough if your heart is light and merry. If you’re angry, you risk taking out your anger on the dough and overworking it.

Whisk together flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Use hands to incorporate butter with dry ingredients by squeezing butter into smaller and smaller bits. Do this until the mixture turns into a coarse meal. It’s okay if there are large chunks of butter left.

Incorporate bacon fat using the same method.

Sprinkle ice water into the mixture a little at a time. Fold water into the mixture until the dough barely comes together into a ball. I followed the original recipe’s advice for testing for dough readiness:

Test for readiness by squeezing a golf ball size portion in the palm of your hand. It should hold together, but not be sticky. If it’s still crumbly, add up to 1 tablespoon more of the ice water.

Gather the dough ball together and flatten into a round disk. This will make it easier to roll out later. Wrap your dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or up to two days).

 

Pie shell to pie crust

Roll out the dough and place into pie pan. Make sure dough is flush with the pan. Trim excess dough around the edges and flute (either pinch around the edges or use a fork to press around the circumference). You now have a pie shell!

Put the pie shell in the fridge for 40 minutes. The original recipe calls for freezing the pie shell for 20 minutes after this, but I couldn’t wait and skipped this step. Heat oven to 375 f (190 c). While pie shell is chilling start cooking the sweet potatoes for the pie filling.

Cover pie shell in foil so foil is flush with pie shell. I don’t have pie weights, so I used 2 cups of uncooked rice. Place pie weights/uncooked rice on top of foil and bake at 375 f for 17-20 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights and bake for another 9 minutes until the shell turns golden brown. You now have a piecrust! Reduce heat to 350 f.

 

Pie Filling

2 lbs sweet potatoes

2 tbs unsalted butter

3 large eggs

2 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

(2/3 cup whole milk)*

¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

Boil sweet potatoes until tender (around 40-50 minutes). They’ll boil faster if they’re in smaller pieces, but mine were practically whole. Drain sweet potatoes and let cool for ten minutes.

While potatoes are cooling, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, sugar, nutmeg and salt. Add vanilla extract. Forget about adding milk because you left it in your scooter.

In a different bowl, mash butter into sweet potatoes and mash to your desired level of creaminess.

Add egg mixture to sweet potatoes a bit at a time and mash to incorporate.

Sprinkle dark brown sugar evenly onto the bottom of your piecrust. If brown sugar gets on the edge of the piecrust it will caramelize and burn. The brown sugar on the bottom of your crust creates a gorgeous sweet layer between the crust and the filling.

Pour pie filling into your warm piecrust.

Bake at 350 f (177 c) for 45 minutes and let rest for 2 hours.

I had a ton of leftover filling so I made a quick crumble (2 cups flour, 1 stick butter, 1 cup brown sugar). I poured the leftover filling into another pie tin, topped with the crumble, and baked at 350 f (177 c) for 45 min.

I suggest you eat this incredible sweet potato pie as a side dish rather than a dessert.

*note: I made this recipe twice and completely forgot the milk the second time. The first pie was creamier, but much richer (actually I used heavy whipping cream instead of milk). The second pie’s filling was drier and had a more bread-like, rustic texture. I prefer the second, sans milk version.

Weekend Links

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Mmmm, stuffing.

Our annual Thanksgiving tradition when I lived in Xining, Qinghai Province, China was to go out for Beijing-style roast duck. We were lucky enough to have an outlet of the famed Quanjude chain of restaurants, and over my 11 (!) years in China I must have spent five or six Thanksgivings there, feasting on delicious Chinese turkey.

This year, our school is going to host a Thanksgiving potluck for our adult students on Wednesday. We don’t have ovens big enough for roasting turkeys, and we’d have to order a bird online, and it’s just too much hassle (and, I don’t feel quite as strongly as this person does but roast turkey is not all that great anyway).

So I think we’ll roast a bunch of chicken legs instead, with mashed potatoes and stuffing on the side, and sweet potato pie for dessert. The stuffing pictured above is today’s practice run stuffing based on this recipe; it’s very tasty but I didn’t use enough bread. Wednesday’s version will be better!

I’ll take pictures of our Thanksgiving celebration and follow up on this post later in the week. I’m interested to see how the students like our traditional Thanksgiving dishes, as well as to see what they bring. One student says she’s bringing a Chinese-style fish. Maybe we’ll create new Thanksgiving fusion fare.

Here are some links to some stuff I read today as well as to some of my previous posts, for perspective:

  • The Republican establishment is taking Donald Trump seriously enough that big time donors supporting different candidates are starting to pool resources with the aim of taking him down.
  • Whereas New Hampshire has helped the establishment kneecap unsavory candidates in the past, this time its voters appear unwilling to cooperate. I stand by what I wrote about Trump’s chances over two months ago here. If anything, the establishment’s position is worse than it was then, making my original instinct to confidently call Trump the favorite to win the nomination look like the one I should have stuck with.
  • As a reminder, “the ‘Republican establishment’ refers to the Republican National Committee, Republican officials who mostly care about winning elections in order to keep taxes low and regulations limited, and their donors. Any candidate likely to get killed in a general election, like Trump, Carson, or Ted Cruz, make the main goals of low taxes and limited regulations less achievable, and are therefore anametha to establishment figures.”
  • Where to begin with the racism and xenophobia manifesting among Republican candidates for president and Republicans in general around the country? Josh Marshall, who understands the rightwing zeitgeist better than most, explained how Trump’s policy-making-on-the-fly quickly becomes the new Republican standard. Trump, remember, is a favorite among white nationalists. Not that the others are any better than him, really, but Trump’s ability to set the agenda helps explain why Marco Rubio would equate Muslims with Nazis, and why Rubio would follow that up by suggesting that Trump’s threat to shut down all mosques may not go far enough. Rubio, remember, is the GOP establishment’s great hope and is supposedly the reasonable Republican candidate.
  • Republican fear mongering drives so many of us crazy because it flies in the face of American history and ideals. Even George W. Bush, in spite of the consequences of his policies, went out of his way to discourage anti-Muslim bigotry.
  • Sometimes, when things are looking bleak, a righteous rant can help raise the spirits. This is a little on the nasty side, and it’s not going to convert any of the people the author refers to as “dumb hicks,” but I recommend reading it if you’ve been appalled by the rhetoric and policy turns the Right has taken after Paris.
  • Welfare does not make people lazy. We’ve known this for decades now but it doesn’t stop people, such as Maine’s dumb hick governor, from saying it does.
  • I’ll try to end these on a positive note. Democrat John Bel Edwards won election for governor of Louisiana on Saturday. Edwards inherits a mess of a state left by Republican Bobby Jindal, who no longer has being too busy running for president as an excuse for destroying his own state’s economy. Edwards’ victory is sweet because he defeated Senator David Vitter, a candidate whose last minute anti-Muslim hysteria didn’t seem to work. Edwards’ victory is even sweeter because Vitter is also a “family values” guy who wants to legislate your personal life in spite of his own taste for prostitutes. Anyway, nice to see a Democrat win a statewide election in a red state and hopefully Edwards and his team are as good at governing as they are at campaigning (*see below):

 

*I know we shouldn’t make light of sex work. It’s a real industry in which workers (many of whom are disadvantaged women) face uniquely dangerous risks and they deserve dignity and to be taken seriously. My points here are that (1) hypocrites like Vitter deserve ridicule and defeat, and (2) Democrats ought to follow Edwards’ lead and fight campaigns with their gloves off.

Weekend Links

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Actual tortillas made by the author’s actual wife.
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Yum.

We invited one of the students in my adult class and her husband over for dinner tonight. This student, who goes by the English name Dana, is really impressive in her dedication to learning English. She teaches full time at a local high school. This year, Dana is the lead teacher for a class of high school seniors who are preparing for university. Since during this academic year the students focus relentlessly on the gaokao, China’s high-stakes university entrance exam, Dana often has to report to school on Saturdays and Sundays in order to help and coach her students as they prepare for the grueling exam. Faced with six and seven day work weeks, she still somehow makes the time to come to my class that meets from 7 to 9 pm on Mondays and Fridays. She always does her homework, and manages to study and practice her English nearly every day. Students like Dana really make teaching rewarding.

We ended up making a southwestern style pulled chicken in our slow cooker, served with flour tortillas, tortilla chips made from some of those tortillas, salsa, and a side salad. Our guests seemed to like the meal, though they probably wouldn’t have told me the chicken was a little overcooked even if they thought it (it was).

Anyway, this is a good excuse to link to the tortilla recipe we use. My wife made them this time, and they turned out very well as usual. This recipe is adapted from some other person’s recipe, which is a topic I wrote about here recently.

Some links for the weekend:

  • Charlie Pierce on Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. For an asinine take, go read the Washington Post editorial board’s piece. This opinion manages to hit all of the both-sides-do-it sweet spots while somehow managing to miss the real story: people of different political persuasions working together to kill a dumb, short-sighted project. The Post is too caught up in its Democrats-are-just-as-much-to-blame-as-are-Republicans narrative to see that the fight over this pipeline was not only about climate change, but also about midwestern farmers who didn’t want their lands seized under eminent domain or their water supply poisoned. Five minutes searching online and I’m better informed than the Washington Post editorial board.
  • I wrote about Ben Carson this week. Josh Marshall walks us through the latest developments in the Ben Carson-is-a-lying-liar saga with a series of posts here, here, and here. Marshall also links to a (subscription required) hit piece in the Wall Street Journal. The appearance of this article means that Carson’s rise to the top of the polls is inviting backlash from his opponents and the Republican establishment. It will be interesting to see if his poll numbers suffer. So far, similar oppo research pieces have not seemed to hurt Carson’s chief competitor for frontrunner status, Donald Trump.
  • My wife pointed me to her friend Daniel Denvir’s piece in Salon about Hillary Clinton’s past support for welfare reform. I guess this piece has generated a bit of backlash. Denvir argues that Clinton’s camp is accusing Bernie Sanders’ camp of sexism in order to deflect criticism of her own (bad) record. He raises good points about Clinton’s record and where she stands now, but he doesn’t do himself any favors by dismissing accusations of sexism out of hand, or by labelling Clinton’s past policy preferences “sexist” and “racist.” I honestly don’t know what to say here, since it’s true that Clinton’s past record is problematic, and it’s also true that Clinton is often the victim of sexist remarks. Both Clinton and Sanders, or Martin O’Malley for that matter, are infinitely preferable to any Republican on almost every issue. I’d prefer to see their campaigns and their surrogates refrain from mudslinging. But politics ain’t beanbag.

Enjoy the weekend!

On Recipe Comments and A Simple, No Yeast Bread

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Finished product.

If you’ve looked at many recipes online, you’re probably familiar with what I’m about to describe. I’ll read a recipe, then glance down at the comments to make sure there’s no “this recipe sucks” consensus. Often, there are some really funny comments, though unless they are master trolls I don’t think making me LOL was what the commenters intended. Almost every other comment seems to be of the “this was a good starter recipe, but…” variety. I’m sure some people are just genuinely sharing their preferred version, but whatever their intentions they often come off as “this was a good starter recipe, but you’re an idiot and this is how to make it better.” The best is when the commenter describes the changes he or she made that essentially turn the recipe into a different thing altogether. I swear I’ve seen stuff like “This is a good starter recipe for chicken enchiladas, but instead of chicken I used pork and instead of a tomato-based sauce I used a honey glaze. 2 out of 5 stars.”

(By the way, any musing about recipe comments MUST include a link to this epic comment thread about a rainbow cake. If you’ve never read this, read it. You won’t be disappointed!)

Because I’m a cranky old man apparently, I’ve stopped going to a bakery here in Dali that has okay bread and instead my wife and I have been making our own for the last few months. The problem with Sweet Vanilla, the bakery in question, is that every time you walk in there it’s a different bread shop. One day they’ve got decent rye bread, wheat bread, and white bread; the next day all they’ve got is a couple of stale baguettes. And recently, when I’ve bought loaves and asked staff members to slice them, they come back with a paper sack full of four brick-sized “slices” of bread. The third time I received these bricks I uttered “This place is dead to me” under my breath and I haven’t been back since then.

Too cheap to go to another local bakery, the relatively expensive Bakery 88, I’ve been using this recipe for Exquisite Yeastless Focaccia once or twice a week. Exquisite is a tad ambitious, but it’s very good!

Following is my first ever “This was a good recipe but…” I already hate myself.

Really though, the way I make it is very similar to the linked recipe above. We just thought it was a little salty, which might not even be the recipe’s fault. It’s very possible that in a mindless moment I mistakenly used two teaspoons instead of the one called for in the recipe. I don’t know!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (your preference), divided in half
  • 1 cup (not hot) water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • seasonings to sprinkle on the dough before you throw it in the oven: black pepper, oregano, garlic powder, cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius (425 degrees Fahrenheit). Grease a pan (I use butter, but olive oil or whatever should work).
  2. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and half of the parmesan cheese in a bowl.
  3. Gradually add the water to the mixture and use a fork to help it form a dough.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball. It should be sticky, but not too sticky! Coat the dough ball in the olive oil.
  5. Spread and press the dough out on the pan into a half-inch thick rectangular/circular shape.
  6. Sprinkle on your preferred seasonings (mine listed above).
  7. Bake for 20 minutes on the middle rack. Take it out, sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, then bake for 5 more minutes.

Great to spread cream cheese or pesto on, or to just eat as is along with a meal. I used this bread and Steve’s Artisanal Reduced Carbon Footprint Pesto to make a sandwich I brought to work last night. Check it out below.

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Spread and pressed onto the pan.
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Finished product.
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Sliced in half it makes a really nice sandwich bread. Last night’s dinner was a pepperoni, pesto, and tomato sandwich