Saturday, October 13, 2007

Melty Nutritional Yeast "Cheese" Sauce

Nutritional Yeast is pretty amazing stuff. It's high in protein, low in fat and has lots of B-vitamins and minerals. You can buy it in bulk at most health food stores or larger grocery stores. It's a form of the same yeast, saccharomyces cerevisiae, found in bread, beer and sourdough. It is grown on molasses and pasteurized to kill the yeast before being sold.

I like the idea of the recipe for Melty Nutritional Yeast 'Cheese' Sauce because, besides the nutritional yeast, it calls for ingredients most people would have readily available - cornstarch, flour, salt, garlic powder, water, mustard and vegetable oil.

This is a recipe from the The Nutritional Yeast Cookbook

Friday, October 12, 2007

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World

The cookbook "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World", is written by two cooks from Brooklyn with a cable access show.

The cupcakes look good, and based on the reviews of the cookbook - taste good too.

You can watch some of their cooking shows on Google Video.

From the Amazon description of the book -

"Isa Chandra Moskowitz has been cooking up trouble in Brooklyn since the '80s. The author of Vegan with a Vengeance, she has done vegan cooking demonstrations around the country and has been featured in many print and online publications, including Bust, Herbivore,, and more. Since 2003, she and Terry Hope Romero have hosted the public access/podcast vegan cooking show Post Punk Kitchen, filmed in Isa's apartment. Along the way, they have baked thousands of cupcakes."

I generally tend to shy away from vegan baked goods that attempt to mimic baked goods made with eggs, butter, cream - because I believe there is simply no way to duplicate those ingredients. I'm pretty sure you won't be able to make a puff pastry or croissant with vegan ingredients - cupcakes maybe - pancakes, brownies, bars and pies certainly. I'm not a big fan of recipes that require buying high priced vegan substitute ingredients in special stores. If the cookbook uses pretty basic ingredients I can buy at a regular grocery store, and maybe a few things from a whole foods store, that would be good.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sourdough Pancake Recipe

This recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Heritage Cookbook makes some tasty sourdough pancakes.

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 beaten egg (or 1/4 cup applesauce)
1 cup starter
1/2 cup milk (or vanilla soy milk)
2 tablespoons cooking oil

Mix the ingredients and fry in a hot frying pan.

I made the starter by mixing 1 part flour and 1 part water in a Mason jar I'd put through the dishwasher to make sure it was sterilized. I punched a hole in the lid so the CO2 given off by the yeast doesn't build up pressure and cause the bottle to explode. I left the jar at room temp for several days, with no cover (you could put a paper towel or cheesecloth on top if you are concerned about bugs or debris falling in your starter). I put the jar in a warm water bath (not too hot) every so often to get the wild yeast worked up. Stir the mixture with a non-metallic utensil of some sort occasionally. Replace the starter you use with an equal amount of the flour water mixture, let it sit at room temp for a few days before refrigerating, and you are all set.

I've read that you can put the starter outside for awhile to capture more wild yeast floating around (not sure about that tip) and also that some starters take a month or more before they get really sour.

This is the Wikipedia article about Yeast and one on Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the type of yeast used in making bread, beer and nutritional yeast supplements.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Computers and Technology In Schools

I recently ran across two thought-provoking articles in Orion magazine on the use of computers and technology in education.

In the article Is It Time to Unplug Our Schools?, Lowell Monke writes,

"Schools would establish life as the measure of value, not machines. They would be dedicated to showing young people how to live as dignified members of an increasingly mediated and fragile world. And they would consciously work to cool down society’s infatuation with technology while heating up our concern for those we live with and the Earth we live on."

In his article Charlotte’s Webpage he goes on to say,

"Technology can provide enormous assistance in figuring out how to do things, but it turns mute when it comes to determining what we should do. Without any such moral grounding, the dependence on computers encourages a manipulative, “whatever works” attitude toward others. It also reinforces the exploitative relationship to the environment that has plagued Western society since Descartes first expressed his desire to “seize nature by the throat.”


We need education that teaches people how to think - critically, with knowledge of context, interconnectedness, history, and world to examine things for what they are rather than what someone, or the media, wants us to think they are.

Instead of focusing resources on technology and computers in classrooms, or allowing children to use these devices to excess at home - we need to teach the basics - reading, writing and arithmetic - how to interact with other people, be a good citizen, a member of a team.

Children need to know how to have real conversations, debate ideas, think on their feet - not just sit in front of a screen or a book.

We need shop classes so kids get a chance to use tools, home economics so they can learn to cook and sew - music, art, physical education and philosophy classes - chances to interact with the natural world, time for play.

Anyone - including scientists, engineers and technologists, should be educated in the Humanities and Liberal Arts.

It's a matter of learning how to think, ask questions, communicate and understand how we can make the world a better (or worse) place to live for all people.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

3:10 To Yuma

3:10 to Yuma is a good, maybe great, Western. It's got a great cast and an interesting story line.

Russell Crowe plays the bad (or maybe not all bad?) outlaw Ben Wade. Christian Bale is the struggling rancher, being persecuted by the railroad men who want his land, who volunteers to help take Ben Wade to the train station for a trip to prison and maybe the gallows.

There's some tough guys in this movie.

Peter Fonda is a crusty old Pinkerton guard Byron McElroy who gets shot in the chest, has the bullet removed by a veterinarian with no anesthesia (by request) and is back in action in about an hour.

Ben Wade kills a lot of people before we meet up with him in the movie and kills a couple more while he is under the guard of several men and in handcuffs.

My favorite line is when Ben Wade is being taken on horseback, in handcuffs, to the train station and Byron and him start to trade insults. Byron makes a rude comment about Ben's mother and father. Ben jumps off his horse, onto Byron, starts wailing on him and eventually with superhuman like strength throws Byron up into the air and off a cliff with the comment,

"Even bad men love their mommas."

It's over the top.

All in all though it's a good movie with a good cast and a timeless universal storyline about courage and the nature of good and evil.


Side note - I met Peter Fonda many years ago when I was working for Business Data Systems installing/repairing point of sale equipment in retail businesses in Montana. I was in a Mexican fast food place in Livingston, Montana working on their cash register. It was a slack time and there weren't any customers in the place. I looked out the window and saw Peter Fonda pull up in an old pickup. He came in and got some food to go. It was me and one or two employees of the place and a big movie star. Actually it was pretty low-key; he was polite, quiet and just a regular person.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Office Workers, Non-Workers, and Work Stoppers

If I were to categorize office workers in order of best to worst (from an efficiency standpoint) it would go something like this -

1. People who are working, and who are relatively non-invasive when it comes to bothering other people trying to do their work.

2. People who are not working and who spend large parts of the day surfing the web, texting, or wandering around but not interfering with other people's ability to work.

3. People who spend an inordinate amount of time talking loudly about non-work related things and interfere with the people within hearing distance ability to work. Additional points deducted for highly personal/icky, boring, or whiny conversations/monologues.

4. People who send work-related emails to groups of people with information they don't need or worse - unclear requests for action, that interfere with many peoples ability to do their work. I made the distinction that these are "work-related" emails since employees have an obligation to examine/read/decipher work-related emails. A non-work related email - joke/personal message etc. is not nearly so time consuming.

5. People who schedule meetings with no clear agenda or no purpose or no redeeming value (from a profit standpoint, or mission standpoint for non-profit organizations) and the people who attend these types of meetings. No extra credit for using buzzwords, Powerpoints or a group-think agreement that the meeting is of value.

My sympathy to those who have no other choice, but I don't have much sympathy for people who make a career out of doing things that can't be proven by independent analysis to provide a tangible (or even intangible) benefit for paying customers in for-profit enterprises, or clients of non-profit organizations.

Daily time wasting on a large scale is only possible in an organization big enough, and with sufficient funds, that some people can be non-accountable when it comes to contributing to making the product or providing the services that customers, or donors in the case of non-profits, pay for.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Workplace Distractions - Authorized to Send E-Mail

I found this quote from a 43 Folders piece interesting -

"Companies go to great lengths to set up lists of authorized approvals, meaning who can approve what size of purchase. But you will find that people who are not authorized to spend $100 on their own are authorized to send e-mails to people and waste hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of company time."

I don't think we'll be removing people's e-mail sending privileges in the workplace anytime soon, but it would seem sensible to have a means to pare down mailing lists to those people who need, or want, the information in the e-mail.

I'm not talking about jokes, personal messages, or fyi courtesy-type messages, since those are necessary, and proportionately speaking not real time wasters, compared to some work-related messages.

It's those work-related messages that you skim through asking "what is this?", "is there something here I need to know?", "is this person asking me to do something?", "why did I get this...?", "do I need to send this to someone?", that are time eaters. Generally these e-mails are sent to multiple people...sometimes hundreds of people and come from people you don't work with on a daily basis - making it challenging to understand the context, urgency, or real issue that the email is trying to convey.

I don't think there is any solution to this other than at the receiving end. You have to learn ways to skim information for what's important and move messages out of your inbox, and into folders, quickly to make room for emails you need to be effective at your job.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Old Town Tacoma - Shuballup?

The Seattle Times calls Old Town Tacoma a "hidden gem."

Old Town Tacoma is located on Commencement Bay in an area that was originally known as Shuballup, "the sheltered place". The claim that Old Town Tacoma was first known as Shuballup comes from the Spar Tavern history page and it seems a little iffy to me to believe that name is accurate (see note below).

The Spar, is a historic tavern and cafe, in Old Town, with good things like - Chai made with soymilk, spar chips (thick chips they make in-house), fish and chips, banana bread, mocha smoothies and live local blues on Sunday nights.

Note - the word "shuballup" is a Googlewhackblatt (a single word that results in a single Google result), similar to the Googlewhack, two words that result in a single Google result. I'm guessing "shuballup" is a misspelling, or misunderstanding of some sort, or just made up - but it does sound like an Indian name that would rhyme with the well known Puyallup.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Rachel's Birthday

Rachel, Becca and I had a nice lunch at the Spar in Old Town Tacoma today.

It was really nice to see my two wonderful daughters.

I am very blessed.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Making Other Arrangements

James Howard Kunstler provides some thought provoking visions of what the future may hold as we inevitably deplete what is left of the world's oil and natural gas.

The idea that alternative energy sources, or some technological breakthrough, will allow us to continue business as usual is, in his view - wrong.

He writes, "It is deeply and tragically ironic that the more information that bombards us, the less we seem to understand."

On the other hand there isn't much of a market in the mass media for people who want to tell us as Mr. Kunstler does - that, "We are not going to run Wal-Mart, Walt Disney World, Monsanto, and the Interstate Highway System on any combination of solar or wind energy, hydrogen, ethanol, tar sands, oil shale, methane hydrates, nuclear power, thermal depolymerization, “zero-point” energy, or anything else you can name."

In his world of the future it's not a question of alternative energy sources but rather finding alternatives sources of transportation, food, government and health care.

Somewhat amazing, but not really, that in this year of presidential debates there is no candidate talking about what we do when fuel becomes so scarce that commuting to and from the suburbs let alone flying ourselves and products around the globe becomes impossible on anywhere near the scale we have become accustomed to.

It's possible Mr. Kunstler is completely wrong but it's probable that at least some part of what he says has an element of truth in it, and to ignore that fact is a very risky bet indeed.

We need to renovate and upgrade our rail systems, totally rethink urban and rural planning, reduce dependence on cars, promote local farming, and recognize that quality of life is not dependent on the amount of cheap plastic crap we can buy at Wal-Mart.

It's not going to be easy to admit the infrastructure we have invested so much in, is no longer appropriate, but my prediction, given the ingenuity of humankind is that the world of the future will include true communities, real work and a much closer connection to the earth....which if you think about isn't such a bad deal at all.


Postscript 10/11/2007 - I anticipate some form of Biomass will be an important source of energy in the not too distant future as the price of petroleum and natural gas rises. In the coming decades elephant grass, switchgrass, hemp, corn, poplar, willow, or sugarcane will be used for producing ethanol and biodegradeable plastic products.

There will be significant trade-offs to consider - not the least of which will be arable land available for growing food vs. energy crops. One option that will become economically viable, if not ecologically desirable from a habitat standpoint, is growing these crops in the logged-out rain forests (assuming we can find a way to enrich that soil or find crops that can thrive in it).

Ethanol is no panacea since it takes significant amounts of energy to grow, harvest and produce this fuel, and although it works for cars, today's jet engines need fuel with a higher concentration of energy.

This PDF file of a NASA report on Alternative Fuels and Their Potential Impact on Aviation talks about some of the challenges involved. A summary of that paper can be found here

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Off To Colorado

I took B to the airport this afternoon for her flight to Denver and then on to Colorado Springs and Breckenridge.

She's getting together with life-long friends she has known since she was a young girl.

I sometimes wish I was able to maintain friendships over the years, but it just doesn't seem to be in my makeup. I tend to be independent and maybe selfish or at least protective of my time and need for solitude and quiet space.

I've known, and know, many good people, fun people, wonderful people and I am thankful to have that opportunity.

I'm lucky I'm married to an outgoing thoughtful person like B and if the truth be told I think she is equally lucky as well....even with my sometimes hermit-like character.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Inside Out

"Lord, you call us to be more than our own limited view of ourselves. You have told us over and over again that we are loved, we are worthy, and that we are extraordinary. Forgive us when we just don't believe it. Transform our lives, heal our broken views of ourselves so that we can encourage and heal others – in our community and in your world."
Source - Devotional from Covenant Lutheran Church Houston, Texas.

Read more at the Archives.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Fall Is In the Air

Rainy weather and clouds begin to replace the sunny days. Football has started and the regular season of baseball is over. Salmon are returning to their birthplaces. Kids are back in school.

The Katsura tree is bright with yellow, orange and red leaves giving it's last hurrah before winter sets in.

Sometimes I wish I could rake up the leaves and burn them to remind myself of the smell of that fall ritual we performed years ago in Montana. Things are too close together and controlled in the city for that sort of thing. We vacuum up the leaves and put them in the green bin to be composted.

With the exception of the hardy souls who fish or play outside in these chilly rainy days, we begin to retreat indoors - to read, bundle up, cook, study, work, nap and enjoy the small things.