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Aaaahhh, crap.

Hokay, this is not good. Looks like the replacement for our creaky old gas stove may be an electric one. Gorrammit. I really love gas stoves; the one that came with my house is the first one I’ve ever owned and I am really, truly impressed by the difference, even as beat down and crappy as it is.

Yeah, and the gas dryer may eventually be replaced by a friggin’ wooden clotheshorse in the basement, too. Poopie.

Brown Smear

You know, this guy’s weasel-dick nature may actually turn out to serve the country some good after all.

Freeways, Cars and Trucks

An interesting pair of articles, this time on cars and — surprise! — Oil independence.

GM shows reporters fake Hybrid prototype

Senior VP of Exxon says energy independence is impossible

I suppose I should comment on Bush’s recent SOTU address, wherein he makes a call for renewable energy. Honestly, though I risk having to hand in my Anti-Bush Card, I agree with him — albeit not without reservation. Sour grapes, I’m sure some will say, but here’s the thing — he left out the single most important part of the equation: Conservation. He never once talked about reducing our intake, only finding new ways to supply the ever-mounting demand for energy.

I’m on board with the Apollo Alliance — a movement that is demanding we begin a nationwide push on the scale of the Kennedy Apollo Program, the one that put a man on the moon in only a decade. If we can fly Neil Armstrong to the surface of another planet using computer technology less sophisticated than a TRS-80, I’m pretty sure we can come up with a semi-efficient hydrogen transportation system (vehicles that run on hydrogen, and the system by which to transport hydrogen nationwide). I also think that unless the vast majority of people start conserving on a larger scale, we’re hosed, no matter how many windmills we erect, nor how much switchgrass we grow.

Yes, it’s admirable that Bush is finally making a push for renewables. I applaud. I just wish he’d made the same push on September 12, 2001. We’d be a hell of a lot further ahead, and I’d bet we’d be persuing the program with much more vigor. Think what we could have done towards that end — both in R&D and actual implementation of plants and energy farms — with the hundreds of billions of dollars we’ve already spent in Iraq? Hell, even a fraction of that money. We could have put a sizeable windfarm in every state for that kind of money, or several solar farms in the southwestern desert.

Ah well. I’m just a wussy liberal dreamer.

Seeds and Soap

Had another good, relaxing weekend. Saturday I cleaned the house, caught up on some reading, baked more bread, cooked food, drew a couple pages, and finally made a batch of soap. I stirred the pot for 45 minutes waiting for trace — and pretty much have decided that I’ll pay someone else to make my soap for me, if this batch doesn’t turn out. Meh. It’s fun and all, but for the amount of work and upfront money involved, it’s probably saner for me to just buy homemade soap at the Farmer’s market. However, I’ll post pictures of the bars once I get them cut and cured, just for reference.

On Sunday, Paul and I went to meeting, ate potluck and then I came home and got things ready for my Seed Party. A bunch of organic urban farmer-types got together and had a potluck thing, and ordered seeds from a few different catalogues. We also swapped seeds that we already had, which was cool. That way they’ll get planted before they go bad. Several people wanted to split seed packets, which was extra-nice, in that we each only had to pay fifty cents or so to try a new kind of tomato or bean. Kinda cool, that.

I have visions in my head of setting up a seed starting table in the basement, but it also makes equal (if not more) sense for me to try starting the seeds in the Library again, with its natural sunlight. I just have to figure a way to keep the seedlings from being eaten by the cats if they decide to break in again. I bought an aquarium at Recycle Ann Arbor in hopes of using it as a somewhat catproof mini-greenhouse, but I still need to rig some sort of lid for it, or raise it high enough that Basia can’t get to it. Hmm… Much to ponder.

I think I’m probably just going to start tomatoes, peppers and a few basils this year, and just direct-seed everything else. We’ll see how it shakes out.


You know what feels really good after a day of chasing down nonsensical Javascript errors?

Splitting a few armloads of firewood.

My mother-in-law brought a trunkload of big logs in from her farm, and I took a few minutes to split some of the easy ones. Rar! Most split on the first or second blow, and once I even got *sparks*.

It also might act as theft-deterrent, seeing the crazy lady in her yard, swinging an axe. Ya never know.

Bestest bread evah.

So in the last two tries, I have baked the best bread ever. I’ve been using the recipe off the back of the King Arthur Flour 100% Whole Wheat bag, with a few modifications via Alton Brown’s “Doctor Strangeloaf” episode. I stopped using my bread droid, too — I made this exact same recipe in the droid many times, and the last four tries it turned out like a brick. I made a batch by hand, and it was absolute heaven. Try it. The recipe’s really easy, the kneading takes like 10 minutes, and it’s good for your upper body strength.

The Simple Recipe (C’mon, you can get it on the bag of KA flour. Buy it. It’s really really good. KA flour’s the best, and you get a picture of a k’niggit on a horsie.)

1 1/3 cup warm water

2 1/2 tsp yeast

1/4 c vegetable oil

1/4 c honey or molasses or maple syrup

3 1/2 c KA 100% whole wheat flour

1/4 c dry milk

1 1/2 tsp salt

Mix the ingredients together. Knead for 6-8 minutes by mixer, or by hand on a slightly oiled counter with oiled hands (it’s sticky). Let rise in a covered, warm, lightly oiled bowl until doubled. Shape into loaf, oil slightly, place into oiled loaf pan. Let rise again till doubled. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

My tweaked version:

1 1/3 cup warm milk

2 1/2 tsp Rapid Rise yeast

1/4 c vegetable oil

1/4 c honey or molasses

3 1/2 c KA 100% whole wheat flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp flaxseed and/or sunflower seeds

The night before, put one cup of the flour, one tsp of the yeast, all the milk and 1 tsp honey into the bowl in which you will mix the bread. Mix thoroughly to combine, cover, and put in the fridge. What you’re doing here is makng a sponge — a proto-starter. You’re getting some of the flavor of a sourdough starter without all the work and upkeep. (Thanks, Alton.)

The following day, take the sponge out of the fridge. Hopefully by this point the yeasts have started to party down, and what you’ll have in your bowl will look like — a sponge! Surprise!

To the sponge, add the remaining ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup flour for the kneading process. Flour the counter and your hands, then work the last 1/2 cup of flour into the dough (it’ll be sticky; you may want to oil your hands and the counter after you work in all the flour). Continue kneading until you can do the little “Windowpane” trick with the dough. (Pull off a walnut-sized hunk of dough and gently noodle it with your fingers until you have a thin membrane. If you can stretch it until you can see light through it, and it doesn’t break, you’re good to go. If not, keep kneading. KA flour has a TON of protein, so it shouldn’t take more than 6-8 minutes.)

Let rise in a covered, warm, lightly oiled bowl — I put mine in the gas oven with the pilot light on, then goose the heat quickly and turn it off again so the oven’s about 80F. You can also put a pan with scalding-hot water in the oven with the loaf to keep it moist and warm while it rises. When the dough is doubled, shape into loaf, oil slightly, place into oiled loaf pan. Let rise again till doubled. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, with a pan of water in the oven to keep it moist.



So last night I made my very first lasagna, ever. It was even pretty close to 0-point Weight Watchers lasagna, because I used fat-free ricotta and whole-wheat noodles, and threw in a bag of spinach for good measure. I used this extra-good recipe from this vegetarian cookbook that Paul’s sister gave me for Christmas, and holy crap did it turn out well. It was seriously, seriously good.

The recipe was tweaked out pretty much exactly as I would have tweaked it, anyway, with red wine, extra garlic and fresh oregano added to the tomato sauce, and fresh grated nutmeg added to the ricotta. It also had the added benefit of being really fast to make: you just put the noodles in dry and uncooked, and all the extra moisture from the sauce cooks the noodles soft while the dish bakes for an hour. It took about 15 minutes to assemble, clean off the counter, and stuff it in the oven. Next time, I am so making two of these, so I can freeze one and have it on hand for another day.

The recipe’s copyrighted and all, so I can’t share it. But this is the book it came from.

Jim O and Kat, if you’re reading, I’d totally suggest that we cook this sometime. It’s easy. Takes an hour to cook, but we’d probably blab that away in no time.


Awesome-de-awesome: Lego Orrery. be sure to check out the guy’s Lego Knitting Machine, too. I guess they do have more free time in Alaska, eh, Layla?

Plus, “Orrery” is just really fun to say. Orrery!


Alito got confirmed. Ladies, bend over and kiss your abortion rights g’bye.

I wish I had something witty to add. I have nothing, other than a deep, dark disappointment at the other twenty Democratic senators who rolled over for this insane candidate. Election time next fall, non?

Still, three big cheers and a tiger to Michigan’s Senators, Levin and Stabenow, who both voted against Alito and for the filibuster. We voters won’t forget this.


This weekend I didn’t get a whole lot done. I read a lot, did some sketching (for fun! Not even for a purpose!), helped Paul with some anatomy excercises, reviewed a friend’s webcomic, and got a page painted. I baked a hand-kneaded loaf of wheat bread (a departure from the usual bread-machine) and watched a few episodes of Alton, including one on breadmaking, which enabled me to bake one of the best loaves I’ve ever produced. Did some crockpot cookin’, some refreshing online research into Biblical history (history of the Bible itself, in its many incarnations, as opposed to the history within the Bible), went to Quaker meeting. It was heaven. I needed a low-gear weekend, and this was it. Yay!


As much as I love for all its bulleteins on all things crunchy, I have to admit that I really have a strong dislike for all the consumer-oriented content. To paraprhase a comment I saw posted on not too long ago — “You mean there will still be Peak Oil if I drive my Prius to Ikea while eating my organic microwaveable burrito?” Yeah. That.

We are not going to solve our conspicuous consumption problems with more consumption, regardless of how green it is. I strongly advocate making green choices wherever one can, but if we keep consuming at the same rate we are now, not much will change.

I’ve been casting around for someone, some book, to put its finger on what I’ve been proseletyzing all this time. I think I may have just found it. It’s called “Voluntary Simplicity”, and it was first brought up as a concept by a guy named Duane Elgin in the 1970’s. (Too bad we got the eighties, instead.) I’ve heard of this movement before, but had never read much about them. I already know the concept in my bones: reduce your intake so that you don’t have to work so darn hard to increase your income. Get off the ratrace treadmill by shedding your belongings until you are down to a nice, spartan, minimum equilibrium.

I found this page of essays, and after reading many of them, I went to the library and checked out a half-dozen books on the subject. I’ll write more after I’ve digested the info, but suffice it to say I galloped through a hundred pages of this book last night.

I have always wanted to concentrate more on my comics. Who knows? Maybe these will lead me towards that end.


In a quest for healthier eating, I’m going to try the WW Core foods plan.I found the CF list on the internets, and my mom’s loaning me a points book. It’s enough like Atkins, which i always have good success with, that I should just be able to do it without meetings. Basically you trade being able to eat fruits, potatoes and whole grains for fats. So, I can’t have cheese or nuts or whole milk for a while, but I can have oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and fruit, three things that are really hard for me to live without.

And you get five “points” per day, which you can “spend” on things like butter, cheese, chocolate, glass of wine, etc. I think I’ll do pretty well. I really like the fact that I don’t have to count or weigh anything, or worry about portions. It’s like, you can eat all the fruits, vegetables and lean meats that you want, but go very lightly on the fatty/high caloric/high starch stuff. I’m down with that. And after about two weeks on the Atkins thing, my sugar sensors are way down. A tiny little bit of sweet, like fruit, tastes wonderful, but anything sweeter than honey is gross.

The other thing I have to be careful of is eating sweet stuff, pretty much at all. On Monday, one of our coworkers baked this really impressive spice cake from scratch, with homemade frosting. I had a small piece, and for the rest of the day I kept passing by the breakroom, snatching crumbs. It’s like an ON switch: If I eat any of it, I want more, more, more. Sticking to fruits and ultra dark chocolate, I don’t get any of those berzerk sugar cravings.

Now, just to compare, go take a look at these Weight Watchers cards from 1974 — ironically, the year I was born.


After a week with absolutely no sugar or carbs, at all, I can finally pull on most of the jeans I bought two weeks ago. I celebrated this with a bowl of oatmeal and a pear. Another week of the same and I should actually be able to wear them out of the house.


Again with the peak oil

Mostly bad news, like the Kuwaitis have been fibbing about their oil reserves, but some good news, from this article in The Independent.

Rain and Sun and Snow

It rained all yesterday evening. Paul and I walked through it for something like two miles while we went out to dinner, a Wassail put on by the SCA at Kraftbrau, and finally to see Titus Andronicus at the Epic Center, starring our own Zee as Tamora, Queen of the Goths.

Everything was great fun; dinner was marvellous, the wassail was well-attended, and I got to sit in on a couple tunes on bodhran. The wassail itself — well, let’s just say they did a very good job recreating it, but I’m quite glad I’m in the 21st century. The spiced apples they plunked in on top of the hot wassail made it positively yummy, though, and the stuffed bread thingies were outrageously good.

Titus Andronicus (Tightass Androgynous, Paul and I snickered with juvenile glee) was a really well done play, and one that I’d never read or seen performed, despite my addiction to all things Shakespearean in College. Talk about gore! Fourteen deaths, nine on stage, cannibalism, rape, infanticide, three chopped off hands — you name it, it’s got it. Zee was an excellent Goth Queen, resplendent in red and completely alien from everyone else onstage. The girl who played Lavinia was also quite good, keening and tongueless and bloody. Titus and Saturninus were showstoppers, and stole the play, especially when they had to get creative with the staging in the second act, because the fake stage blood was so expensive. We came home and I dragged out my enormous collegate-era Big Book o’ Shakespeare and read most of the notes and play, catching some of the more subtle historical references I’d missed. I knew some of them — but Tarquin? He was a bit of a mystery.

Today I got up and tried to ski in the four inches of snow that fell overnight. Yes, you heard correctly — it bucketed down rain until midnight and then switched to snow. Welcome to Michigan, and its schizophrenic weather. This morning it was blue and sunny and beautiful — and 35 degrees. I attempted to go skiing, but finally gave up after about a half-hour and walked home with my skis over my shoulder. I was spending more time knocking the packed-on snow off my skis than I was actually going forward. Le sigh.

Still, it was time well-spent; it’s absolutely beautiful now, even though there ain’t much snow left.


So, I’m looking into starting to make some soap. Here are some niftykeen links, so I don’t lose them.

I want to learn to make soap with items I can get cheaply and easily, otherwise it doesn’t make sense to make it myself. I’d prefer vegetarian soaps (sans tallow or lard, though those are the most traditional), and don’t really feel like ordering palm or coconut oils, but from what I’ve been reading, unless you want a very drying, no-lather bar, you’ve got to go with one or the other of those.

Ideally, what I’d like is a good recipe for a small (1# or so) batch of olive oil/beeswax/water/lye — with green tea mixed in to the water to give a nice skin rejuvenator, and maybe a teaspoon or two of jojoba or almond oil (I have both hanging around from an earlier project) for superfatting. I think there’s just such a one in the Cranberry Lane PDF, and I may try that one as my inaugural batch.

Any readers here have any soapmaking experience? Anybody want to come to / host a soapmaking party once I get a few batches under my belt?


I made really yummy Queso Blanco tonight. The advantage of this cheese is that it requires no rennet or anything special.


1 gallon whole milk, not ultra-pasteurized, preferably without hormones.

1/4 cup cider vinegar

Kosher salt (grind in mortar and pestle until fine)


Accurate thermometer

Colander, lined with a clean, tight-woven dishtowel (NOT Terrycloth)

Two zucchini-bread pans

Cookie sheet

8-quart stainless steel pot (NOT ALUMINUM)

In a large stainless steel pot, heat the milk to between 180 and 195, stirring frequently to prevent burnination.

When the milk is at the correct temperature, add the cider vinegar in little bloops, stirring as the milk curdles. The milk should clearly separate into curds and whey; if it doesn’t, add another bloop of vinegar.

When the curd has formed all the way, empty the pot into the colander. When the cloth is cool enough to touch, gather the corners and wring out as much whey as you can, then set it back in the colander, open it carefully, and salt the curds to taste. Bundle the curds in their towel until they’re all wrapped up in a neat little package,then press it inside one of the zucchini bread pans. Set the second breadpan on top of the first, as though you were going to nest them together, with the proto-cheese in between. Turn the whole affair over, and set it in your sink or on a cookie sheet.

Wash your pot and fill the empty gallon jug that the milk came in with water. Set the pot on top of the inverted breadpans and put the full gallon of milk in the pot. Presto! You now have a cheese press exerting eight pounds of pressure. Press down on the handles of the pot to make sure the whey can still run out of the cheese. Let stand overnight. In the morning, you will have a cunningly shaped brick of Queso Blanco, suitable for slicing and frying, Palak Paneer, or a million other yummy applications.

Attention, Knitters and Crocheters:

I am in need of more shopping bags, the kind that you take to Farmer’s Market or the grocery store and don’t throw away. The goal is to have a couple in the house, and a couple in each of our cars, so that if we do quick pitstops we already have them with us.

Consequently, I want either some of these or some of these. Knitting and Crocheting are two domestic skills I just don’t have. What I do have is a metric butt-ton of plastic bags, and a little money. I would be willing to make the “yarn” and slide a few bills your way. What say?


No Silverleaf this year, lookin’ like.

I lurve FreeCycle.

Some nice people just came and hauled away boxes of crap from my house. And they were happy about it.

I lurve you, FreeCycle!

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