Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I decided not to purchase eggs anymore*, and the chemistry of baking requires that I become more creative. I'm not interested in commercial egg replacements, and I've had mixed results with other means of substitute (ground flax seeds and water, plain yogurt**, bananas, etc).

There are, fortunately, some recipes that are naturally egg-free and do not require tinkering. Shortbread (and its many variations) is one of the easiest and most delicious cookies out there. There are few basic ingredients-- flour, butter, and sugar, roughly in a ratio of 4:2:1-- so it's important that they are of good quality. You will probably want to add a pinch of salt, possibly vanilla extract. For variety, throw in some chocolate bits, orange peal, etc. It's an extremely flexible dough in every sense of the word. Roll it out and cut into shapes, form into a round, or just press it into the bottom of a pan to be cut after baking. Scoring is optional, but fork pricks are not. You generally cook it slowly at a low heat, around 300-325 degrees, until it's a pleasant golden color.

I tried adding corn starch to this batch, and 2/3 of a dark Belgian chocolate bar. The corn starch, which some recipes substitute for 1/4 of the flour while others just call for adding it in equal portion to the butter, is supposed to give it a more delicate flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture. If you use good butter, it's difficult to screw up shortbread. And it goes very well with black tea.

*I also tried using
I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, but you you know what? it's pretty easy to believe.

** I recently made really lovely, moist chocolate chip cookies by substituting yogurt for eggs in the standard Tollhouse recipe.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Infinite Summer

"You've been meaning to do it for over a decade."

Two weeks ago I picked up Infinite Jest from the Hold shelf at the library. The book became available earlier than I expected, at which time I was regrettably entangled in another book. Then I began
Cryptonomicon... In the meantime I picked up a few old Philip Roth paperbacks that I have sworn to read in the near future. So it's looking unlikely that I'll be reading IJ any time soon.

But wait, there is hope (albeit in the form of a website, Facebook group, etc.). Infinite Summer challenges endurance bibliophiles to read DFW's magnum opus over the course of the Summer of 2009. Since the book clocks in at 1000+ pages, that works out to roughly 75 pages per week. Which sounds reasonable. Anyone game?

Friday, May 22, 2009


Today marks nine years since I began practicing yoga. This followed a move to Palo Alto (from Marin County) and a return to running. When I took my first class, I'd been running regularly for several months (ran my first B2B a couple of weeks earlier) and was reasonably fit, so imagine my surprise when said class kicked my butt.

Until I began my yoga practice, I wasn't very in tune with my body
. It seemed to work well enough, but I rarely demanded much of it. All that stretching and twisting reveals all sorts of surprises, so I've gotten to know it pretty well in the meantime. I've practiced an eclectic array of styles, embracing what I found to be useful and eschewing the dogmatic. I love the flow of Ashtanga vinyasa, the precision of Iyengar and Atma Vikasa. It was yoga that took me to India the first time, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


The NY Times compared it favorably to similarly-massive postmodern tomes Mason & Dixon (Pynchon), Underworld (DeLillo) and Infinite Jest (Wallace). Though I've just begun to dig into its meaty 900+ pages, I'm already hooked.

First there was the obviously Pynchonesque* prologue, complete with haiku-composing narrator and absurdist Second World War Shanghai setting. Note the curious symbol on the cover, reminiscent of the muted horn in Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, which appears at the head of each (un-numbered) chapter.
But it was a dialogue on mathematics that really drew me in. I recently completed The Music of the Primes, Marcus du Sautoy's history of Prime Number Theory, specifically the Riemann Hypothesis; Alan Turing and the Riemann Zeta Function make an appearance on page 9 (! trade paperback edition) of Cryptonomicon.

This mixing of fiction with of historical facts and figures** is hardly new, but add to that an intricate plot (or rather multiple interconnected plots), heaps of richly detailed characters, multiple time settings, the fascinating game of crypto, and vocabulary that has me occasionally reaching for a dictionary (not at the level of, say, Umberto Eco, but not bad,) well, this is a recipe I can hardly resist.

A decade has passed since its initial publication, causing me to wonder, What took me so long?

* The further I read, the more I'm reminded of
Gravity's Rainbow. Twenty-some years and several re-readings later, it still ranks among my all-time favorite novels.

** Ronald Reagan! Albert Einstein! Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto!

Monday, May 18, 2009


I'm nursing a bad foot, so I wasn't able to run Bay to Breakers this year. I didn't even make it over to the Panhandle until 10AM (two hours after the 12K race began), and still I was able to watch the parade of merriment for an hour and a half with no end in sight.

The weather was stunning, though too warm for many of the costumes. I took so many photos that I actually filled up my camera's memory card. I haven't had time to sort through them yet, but the colors of this one caught my eye.

Friday, May 15, 2009

And While We're on the Subject of Names...

According to this site, there are two people in the US with my first and last name combo. Considering that I know the other one, that's rather comforting.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Queit, Please


A recent thread on MeFi about baby names got me thinking.* Both of my grandmothers were born early in the last century and had typically old-fashioned names: Matilda and Genevieve. Coincidentally (?), both were commonly called boys' names, Matty and Johnny. As a child, I could hardly bear to hear my maternal grandmother and her sisters' names. They sounded like a coven of particularly ugly witches. What a difference a century makes. What are the chances today of coming across a group of little girls named Matilda, Beatrice and Gladys?

* I also learned a new word. Onomastics, the study of naming.