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Afternoon, Spider Rock © Robert Sommers 2023

Friday, March 31, 2023

Presidential unveiling

We have a real conundrum with ex President Trump and Texas porn star Stormy Daniels. First he denies any sexual encounter, than says it was a long time ago, and then denies it again, pretending nobody was listening. So which is it?

She on the other hand, can intimately describe the man she now calls " Tiny" in the most graphic and exacting detail, comparing his penis to a smaller than average phallus with a huge mushroom head.


Trump has, of course, denied any presidential "deficiencies."

“Look at those hands, are they small hands?” he said, raising them for viewers to see. “And, he referred to my hands – ‘if they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”


So just who is telling the truth here? It's a real "he said, she said." Does 45 more closely resemble the Washington Monument or the pre-op John Bobbit? Americans deserve to know if the Presidential flag flies at "half mast."

I believe that there is only one way to ascertain veracity in regards to the true dimensions
of the presidential staff. A public unveiling. On national television. Even Fox.

If in fact Donald J. Trump is built like the second coming of Milton Berle, certainly an apology from the blond bombshell is in order.

But if the Presidential member resembles something more on the order of the little magic toadstool in Mr. Toad"s Wild Ride, I think the orange one deserves a trip to the slammer for putting the country through such an ordeal and embarrassment with his diminutive manhood, brazen infidelity and continual prevarication.

One more case of serious "Obama envy," I am sure...

Pharoah Sanders

red tailed hawks

 

The male red tailed patriarch has a beautiful light morph. 


The female sits on her clutch expectantly. I feel bad for her, watching her never being able to move in all this bad weather.

Very soon, her labors will be over.

Aztec Affirmation


I'm not going to resort to prayer for a sports team but I am not above a positive affirmation or two. Our friend and fellow SDSU alum Heidi gave me this beautiful hand painted rock today, her Aztec Intention Rock.

Tomorrow afternoon is the NCAA Basketball Final Four. The San Diego State University Aztecs are playing FAU.

I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win!

Thank you Heidi!

West L.A. Fadeaway

The proof is in the bread

 


Matthew 6:11 - Give us this day, our daily bread.

We all have this bucket list in our lives, places we would like to explore, things we would like to do, tasks we would like to accomplish.

One of the things I have always felt deficient in is feeling comfortable cooking.

My mother and brother were excellent cooks, I just never felt confident in the kitchen, although I think I have a very good palette.

I made bread a few times in my twenties but have always wanted to tackle a sourdough. 

Haven't baked since.

I decided to devote some time to making one yesterday.

Actually, the process started the night before.

I had watched hours of sourdough videos on Youtube and decide to roughly follow this one. Mike Greenfield - Pro Home Cooks.

Watched it too many times. 

Was in constant text and phone communication with my two bread mentors, Gina and Renée.


My journey towards the perfect loaf started on Wednesday night at ten o'clock.

I had been feeding a borrowed starter for about two weeks and it looked and smelled ready. Passed the float test.

I weighed out my ingredients, 400 grams of all purpose flour and 100 grams of bread flour, 385 grams of room temperature water.

I stirred them together with a dough whisk. 

Covered it in plastic at room temperature and went to bed. 

Did not use ice water as was called for.

This process of initially mixing flour and water is called an autolyse

Salt changes the flour hydration and I would not add the 75 grams of starter and 10 grams of salt until the morning. 

These amounts that I am using are based on a formula called baker's percentages.

I woke up at six in the morning and went to work mixing. At six thirty I started a series of operations called stretch and folds for two and a half or three hours, every half hour, giving the dough a nice workout and gluten structure.

After this process was accomplished I stuck the dough in a plastic container and waited for the bulk rise. And waited. And waited. 

The three to four hours suddenly was now over seven hours. And waiting. 

Sadly, my dough would never rise considerably, although the bubble action was amazing. 

I knew the starter was active and powerful but my house was too cold in this weather for much volume increase to occur. 

Or at least I think that is what happened.

I ended up sticking the mixture in the oven with the light on. 

Did not appear to make a measurable difference.

Finally I decided to cut my losses and just say go for it. I didn't want to be doing this at midnight. It would either be good enough or a spectacular failure. I wasn't sure at this point.

I preshaped my dough, then let it bench rest and finally did my final shaping.

This type of sourdough is what is known as a wet loaf, with very high hydration. 

It is very tricky to work with. I did my best. You don't want to overwork it either.

I could tell that my dough was very wet.

I stuck the finished mixture in a floured banneton covered with muslin, and let it rest at room temperature.

Many prefer to proof in the refrigerator, or overnight in the fridge, it is said to accentuate the sour dough flavor.

I didn't have that option, my fridge is full.

At about 6:30 last night I preheated the oven, with my large dutch oven inside at 500°.

I turned my loaf upside down on a piece of parchment paper coated with corn meal. Probably should have brushed some excess flour off the loaf but really didn't have a suitable brush. Oh well. I didn't have a razor or lame and made do with the tip of a sharp knife. Scoring is important, bakers want a nice ear. Next time.

I cooked at 475° for 18 minutes, then took the lid off the dutch oven and gave it another 20 or so, after sliding a baking dish under the enormous heavy pot.

It is recommended that you use a five quart dutch oven, I used the seven, having a choice between it and the three and a half. The bread spread out a lot with the 28cm width.

After the bake, I turned off the oven and left the door open, to cure the bread as the YouTuber suggested. 

This is said to help crisp the crust.

Finally, my bread was done. 

My nascent voyage over the sourdough sea was complete.

I did not get the spring I had hoped for but I have seen worse.

The crust was delicious, the inner crumb, light and airy.





It certainly was not a thing of beauty but I am told it is a fine result for a maiden effort. Nice, honest and delicious loaf. Toughest thing was waiting for an hour to cut into it. We used our french butter and it accompanied an excellent caesar salad for a late dinner. The most important thing? It tasted so good! Could not fault that one bit.

Am I satisfied? No. I can't wait to perfect it and give it another crack. I want lift. I might try a new recipe, one with a levain or a different flour mix. There are so many ways to go. Is it worth it? 

That is a very good question. I had, what, over 20 hours in this single loaf, an inordinate amount of effort for so little return. But it is a challenge and a fun one for me, to perfect  and create a beautiful loaf of bread. I deconstructed this one with my bread mentors at length this morning. How can I improve it?

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I told Leslie I was thinking about getting a new refrigerator for the garage.

She told me to stop thinking and that it was not going to happen. I didn't say another word. You have to know when to pick your battles.

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I am going to hold off on the next sourdough for a moment. I think I see a granny smith apple pie with homemade crust in my near future. Any great baking recipes gladly accepted.


Red tailed aloft

 


I caught this beauty on my way home on Wednesday.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Stormy Weather



Gas Ripoff

I posted this on NextDoor, several people report the identical experience.


I emailed San Diego County Weights and Measures, no response. This occurred at the Northern Shell, near the car wash. I always thought their prices were absurd but had no idea their pumps were crooked.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Toots and the Maytals

I heard this in some big time commercial on television this week. Along with Hendrix, I believe the Wind cries Mary is selling cars now. Time for everybody to cash out while there is still time. Dylan, Who, Beatles, nothing is sacred. Steal your face right off your head with the new Grateful Dead sunscreen. Let ring those cash registers before the fat kid in Korea decides to pout and launch a few ICBMs and it is all over.

Wednesday Ramble


One of my distant genetic cousins posted this photograph of my paternal great great great grandfather's tombstone in Warsaw. 

I found it on a genetics site.

Another genetic cousin translated the inscription for me. 

I had never seen it before. 

He was the renowned Polish silversmith Szmul Szkarlat (1814-1878.)

This is what it reads:

Szmul Shmelke, son of Mr. Avigdor his memory of blessing. He passed away in 1878.

A man walks in the path of righteousness,

Arrived to its end

He enjoyed all his days, a little poem.

Our dear father

Who is an honest man, fears God, and humble.

I guess they called him Shmelke, a Yiddish derivation for Szmul. More on him here.

Kind of cool. Nice that it is still standing. Will probably never go to Poland, great to see a picture of my ancestor. He enjoyed all his days a little poem, interesting...

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I was gifted another piece of Le Creuset yesterday, a griddle pan by two wonderful people Kathy W. and her son Eric.

That is two this week. Thank you friends.

I am sporting a pretty good burn on my index finger, wasn't careful enough around the peach cobbler. Cooking is a dangerous sport.

I have been working on my sourdough starter all week, tomorrow I bake my first loaf. I had to buy a new top knob for the dutch oven, the old knobs were not able to go up to the 475° I need for the bread. Pricy little bugger.

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Kip just came back from a trip to Montana, first stopping in all sorts of wonderful places, his shots were just great.

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Somebody sent this over. Pretty much hits the mark. I was thinking, woke definitely has its drawbacks, but it beats the shit out of dead asleep.

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What else? Restaurant Week is back but it looks like no Pampelmousse. Bummer.

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Harwood sends a picture of wild ceanothus.


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Competitive rock stacking. we pioneered this art, or Shawn did.

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Interesting article at the Smithsonian on forced jewish identification badges throughout history. Happy upcoming Passover!

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The father of cannabis research has died. A shirtsleeve relative, but they all are.

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My crazy friend Barry in Phoenix just bought twenty tons of rocks.

Can I get an oy vey?


It rained like Woodstock today, enough already...

who me?


 

west east

 


Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Ben E.King - Supernatural Thing

Birdy birdy


My old photography pal Ken called me up and asked if I wanted to go shooting today? What the hell, why not? It certainly beats working.


We met in Temecula at 7:30 sharp and drove up to our spot. Such a beautiful day. It gets a bit crowded with two people with big cameras in the car so I left my better giant lens at home. We would focus on having a good time instead.






What a lovely day! Could not have been nicer, weather wise anyway. 

Smelled great too, although my allergies did kick up. Birds were not too prolific but we made do. 

Lots of coots and shovelers, ton of red winged blackbirds, sort of the usual, of late. Ken got a shot of a merlin.

Wasn't too long before we spotted a long eared owl hiding out in a tree. 

Perhaps if I had brought the prime I would have been able to do it justice but it certainly was a beauty.

Maybe I have a better picture? I will keep looking...




We managed to get our usual hike in, great to stretch the legs. Looked for the vermilion flycatcher but no dice today.

Lots of lupine, mustard and poppies. And the snow capped peaks of San Gorgonio.

Do you know how hard it is to photograph a tree swallow? These babies are fast.
I will let the pictures speak for themselves.




Monday, March 27, 2023

Eat a peach

It's in the oven

Leslie and Renée accompanied me over to Heidi and Kent's yesterday to watch the Aztecs play Creighton. They brought a bunch of food and we were, of course, a few minutes late. 

I was squirming but there are times that there is nothing you can do about things like that so I surrendered and mostly shut up.

Truth be told, I was not real confident about the basketball game. We just took down the number one team in the land and I thought there might be an emotional let down. 

So I had very low expectations. Whatever happens, I was cool with it but I honestly didn't expect to advance.

Kent made a wonderful smoked and dry rubbed tri tip, he is really good with barbecue, Heidi made a nice salad. Renée hand squeezed blood orange juice and I immediately went for the screwdrivers to settle in.

It is funny, since the Aztecs started their run, the east coast centered national sports media can not give them any credit whatsoever. It is always the other team that failed. No wonder the team has a chip on their shoulder, they get very little respect and this pattern continued yesterday.

We worship blue bloods in this country and people can't quite get their head around the fact that a team from the piddly little Mountain West can come so far. Truth be told, the Mountain West has really upped its game this year:


Six teams with twenty wins or more, four teams in the tournament, the conference is getting a whole lot better, everybody trying to match the Aztecs success. Whether the Aztecs stay with the conference is another matter. If they do go to the Pac 12 (or 10, whatever you call it) at least they won't have to fly to Laramie any more. Their travel schedule is killer.

The other day Dutcher intimated that the reason they have not been previously invited to the Pac 12 was because UCLA and USC did not want to see them on an equal footing for recruiting as they tend to plunder our area. And now they are gone, it makes sense to have a southern Cal team in the conference, doesn't it? Or start a new conference, will be quite interesting to see what comes down the pike.

Anyway back to yesterday. the Aztecs did not play a great game. They won, and fairly, but I don't see how. The Creighton center Kalkenbrenner had a field day with them. He seemed to score at will in the low post and clean up everything. Plays in a different stratosphere. Very hard to guard somebody that big and agile. I would have gone to him every play if I was the opposition.

But Mensah and LeDee (who is a cousin of the late Willis Reed) tightened it up and the Aztecs ultimately prevailed, on the strength of the short to medium range jumpers by Butler and Trammell. We go on to play FAU, my sister's alma mater, in the Final Four.

The oddsmakers had Creighton a two and a half point favorite, even though we were a higher seed. This continues a pattern since the Charleston game, we were not supposed to win a game if you listened to the Myron Medcalfs of this world. People talk about defense but what they really want is flashy scorers like Brandon Miller or the incredible girl from Iowa, Caitlin Clark. 

That is why everybody is so gung ho on Connecticut, they like familiar teams that can score. The Aztecs are unusual and enigmatic, a group that is about team work and defense, not individual stars. And they are way out in California, do they play basketball out there?

How quickly they forget that we just beat a better team in Alabama that could even score more. No respect. I know that they are already fitting the Huskies for their crown but is it that far fetched to think that they too could go the way of Alabama or Texas?

Today I heard Rick Neuhisal complain about how old the Aztecs and Owls are and how unfair it is to the rest of the field. Funny, many kids did take their covid year of eligibility but why not look at it this way; the Aztecs are the rare program where kids graduate and stay four years or more. Because they believe in each other, their coaches and the program. No one and done prima donnas in this program, maybe with the exception of Jalen McDaniels but at least he hung around for two.

Look at all the bluebloods that have been bounced so far; Kansas, Texas, Alabama, Duke, Arizona, Indiana, UCLA, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Baylor. This year has been fantastic. Four teams, with limited pedigrees, slaying all the giants. It is the most democratic tournament in the world. You win, you continue to play. 

These final four are the lone survivors, one four, two fives and a nine seed. We should have been a four, based on our record but that is water over the bridge. Since 1979 when the NCAA Tournament was first seeded, there’s never been a Final Four without a #1, #2, or #3 seed. Now there is.




This is not the highest I have ever been for a college basketball team. I have to go back a very long time for that. 

I was nine years old in 1965, living in El Paso when a team came out of total obscurity, Texas Western and shocked the world by beating Kentucky and winning the national championship.

I can still see the names on the jerseys in my mind's eye: Bobby Joe Hill, David Latin, Orstin Artis and Willie Cager. The first all black starting lineup, the team faced a lot of racism, beating the white Kentucky team that included Pat Riley. 

No customary invite to the Ed Sullivan show, in fact when they won the championship no one brought out a ladder for them to cut down the net. But they won, and I followed every game with glee as did the rest of my city. Texas Western was on the map and it quickly became UTEP. Amazing what winning can do for a city.

This is not that. I am no longer a kid and no longer have the same unbridled enthusiasm for sports. But it is close. I am really happy for the place that I went to school for my credential and for my hometown city of San Diego.

You can root for the bluebloods and Goliath all you want, my sympathies will always be with David and the underdogs.

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As you know, I have recently become involved in cooking. I have a sudden interest in baking. 

I have not baked in over forty years but that is about to stop. Going to start making sour dough in my french oven.

I got starter from a friend and an offer of a starter from another friend. My mother was a fabulous bread and biscuit maker, my brother had a bakery in his restaurant.

I just bought a banneton and hope to have a loaf in the oven this week. I have never made sour dough before and don't have a stand mixer. But I have a new dough whisk and I will try to muddle through.

I made a peach cobbler and brought it to the game, served it with a nice high end vanilla ice cream.

I mixed organic canned peaches with some south American fresh peaches that weren't real sweet but were firm.

Made it in my new Le Creuset ceramic baking oval.

Worked like a charm. I was surprised, my pals really liked it.

I added lots of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. I am figuring out this baking and cooking thing as I go along. Next one will be even better!

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The Aztecs may have one game left, they may even have two. In any case, it is wonderful that they have caught the world's attention.  The basketball program has won 20 games or more in 18 out of the last 19 years and won 19 the odd year out. The school's football program has a 7-4 record against Pac-12 schools since 2016, and it made bowl games the past 12 full seasons. In five of the past seven full seasons, San Diego State has won double-digit football games. 

Since 2010, San Diego State has the highest combined winning percentage of any Division I school in football and men's basketball at 73.8%, ahead of Ohio State (72.9%) and Oregon (71.1%). 

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.


Let's Go!