May 27, 2008

Degenerating into a racket   {Comments: 0}

Josh Marshall links to this fascinating (and none too sympathetic) big-picture piece by George Packer on the decline of the conservative movement and then adds some comments of his own. First of all, read the Packer piece -- it's full of historical perspective, but there's also a lot of insight into what thinkers on the right make of the current crisis.

Josh Marshall's comments go where you'd expect: looking at how the Democrats today look like the Republicans in decades past, suggesting parallels that might hint at what's coming. Maybe I'm a skeptic by nature, but it's hard for me to see Democrats as a movement right now; instead, it feels to me like they're simply reaping the benefits of huge mistakes on the other side. Suer, they're on the right side of a lot of important issues, but where is the coherent, compelling core message that explains who they are? I still have hopes that Obama will be the one to articulate that message, but it may be harder with McCain in the race.

May 25, 2008

Strange features of our universe   {Comments: 0}

If I understand this correctly, the idea is that before the Big Bang, time was moving in the other direction. In other words, the Big Bang caused the universe to expand in all directions, including time. It's a mind bending notion, but more importantly a beautiful one -- and I think that's a big part of Sean Carroll's point about observable and unobservable features.

May 24, 2008

Cheese of the week: Midnight Moon   {Comments: 752}

This week's cheese is Midnight Moon, a gouda-style aged goat cheese from Cypress Grove in California. I chose it because Jon suggested it in comments a couple weeks back, and also because I was determined to try something from outside the midwest after a question from Suttonhoo about cheese from the coasts. I didn't notice until I got it home that the cheese is actually manufactured in Holland and not California! But I decided to include it here anyway.

I picked it up at Target in Broadview, where they have a much better selection of serious American cheese than I would have expected from a Target. I do think the textures suffer a little from the shrinkwrapping there as compared with the paper-wrapped cheeses I get over at Marion Street, but I love that Target carries stuff from Roth Käse, Carr Valley, and other serious local cheesemakers.

I liked it, but not as much as some other reference cheeses I've had -- for example, the goat milk half of the Mobay from a couple weeks ago, or Rembrandt Gouda, which I've been eating and cooking with a lot lately. The flavor profile is very much like a gouda, but weaker and less complex. It's a dense cheese, but the texture isn't as grainy or crumbly as I'd like. Still, it's a pleasant enough cheese for eating, and it would be good to cook with too -- in an omelet, maybe? I'd like to give it another go at some point, particularly if I see it at Marion Street.

May 22, 2008

When in Rome   {Comments: 1}

I've missed a week on the cheese of the week, but there's one coming soon -- hopefully tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a shot from our visit yesterday to the Wisconsin Dairy State Chees Company in Rudolph, about 20 minutes from Stevens Point. We didn't do a tour or anything -- in fact, they apparently make cheese there every day of the week except Wednesday, so we missed out on that. What we were able to do was marvel at the incredible variety of cheese they had in their shop and sample the ice cream. We left with some cheese curds (not my favorite thing in the world, although I do like them fried) and a nice wedge of Grand Cru Gruyere from Roth Käse, something I'd been wanting to try for a while. Yum.

May 21, 2008

Less meat, less junk, more plants   {Comments: 0}

Mark Bittman's braising plus broiling technique reminds me a lot of my mom's method for adobo, a version of which I posted a while back on Too Many Chefs. For the adobo I skip initial browning step and really brown the heck out of it near the end -- this way there's no need to add oil.

Meanwhile here's Bittman speaking pretty compellingly on what's wrong with our meat-heavy diet.

Walking the plank   {Comments: 1}

Sorry the posting has been so nonexistant lately. We're in Stevens Point Wisconsin for the week, and it's been hard to think about blogging between hiking trips and eating fried cheese curds. The photo above is of my daughter Miriam tooling along the plank trail through the marshy parts of Schmeeckle Reserve.

This is a total non sequitur, but I've been working on updating the website for the Oak Park Education Foundation, and I thought I'd post a link to their video, which is now online. I didn't have anything to do with the video, but I do a lot of volunteer photography for them (as well as web design) and I think they're a great operation and a great cause.

May 17, 2008

Visible signs, diligently scrubbed away   {Comments: 0}

Here's an interesting (if not very instructive) piece from Slate on how one might tell if a photo has been photoshopped.

On the topic, it so happens I had my first photography job for a newspaper today -- actually my first three assignments. I've been doing occasional paid work for the past year or so, but until today it hasn't been journalism, and I have a feeling that may be where I'm most comfortable. The shoots went reasonably well, even though I obviously have a lot to learn yet. I don't know if or when I'll write more about the experience here, and I haven't figured out yet what the protocol is for sharing photos taken on assignment; at the very least I suppose I could link to the articles online, if the photos are posted. I've also been toying with the idea of creating a separate space for writing about photography, but so far that's only a thought.

May 14, 2008

The abstract truth   {Comments: 0}

Tyler Cowen linked to this great list of 100 essential jazz albums from David Remnick, and I've been listening to Cassandra Wilson and Bill Charlap all day. I know the name of the game is find the omissions, but the only album that I really miss from that list is Oliver Nelson's The Blues and the Abstract Truth.

Wrapped in hay   {Comments: 0}

My sister Jackie finally has another cheese of the week up, and it looks delicious! I'm glad to see she's blogging again.

May 10, 2008

Cheese of the week: Mobay   {Comments: 5}

This week's cheese is Mobay from Carr Valley in Wisconsin. Once again I picked it up at the Marion Street Cheese Market, although I've had it a couple times before, once at Bin 36 downtown. It was as tasty as I remembered.

Mobay is a semi-hard cheese made up of two layers separated by ash from grape vines. Apparently this recalls a French cow's milk cheese called Morbier that makes use of both morning and afternoon milk by sprinkling vegetable ash after the first (morning milk) layer is poured to prevent a crust from forming before the afternoon. The twist is that Mobay uses sheep's milk for one layer and goat's milk for the other, giving the cheese two separated flavors that mix wonderfully in the mouth.

We are still considered controversial here   {Comments: 0}

Sorry for the lack of posts around here lately. We ended up leaving town suddenly and I wasn't in a position to post anything. It's too bad, too, because it was an incredible week in politics... more on that later, I guess).

Something I've been meaning to link to is this extended New Yorker profile on Grant Achatz, the chef behind Alinea, and his struggle with tongue cancer. It's a much more revealing piece than any I've seen before, full of insight into how the menu at Alinea comes together but also the kinds of choices cancer can put in front of you.

One thing really annoyed me about the article though:

The main risk factors for cancer of the "oral tongue," as the forward two-thirds of the organ are called, are alcohol and tobacco. Achatz never smoked or drank heavily, but his life style wasn’t exactly healthy. At Trio, he ate poorly, drank ten Diet Cokes a day, and worked long hours, sometimes as many as ninety a week. (When a local magazine featured Achatz and asked him to name "one thing that's overrated," his response was "Sleep.")
What possible reason could there be for implying that Achatz's unhealthy lifestyle led to this cancer? Is the author just trying to fit this workaholic picture in somewhere in the piece? It's really irresponsible, for one thing, to take a scientific finding and expand it casually like this. But it also seems to come out of a larger view of disease that looks for ways to blame the patient.
May 4, 2008

Spindle's end   {Comments: 0}

Berwyn's car kabob sculpture (mentioned previously here and here) is gone! I'm so disappointed that I missed the chance to go photograph the demolition/dismantling, but this article has a good slide show.

May 3, 2008

Cheese of the week: Blue Paradise   {Comments: 6}

I went back to the Marion Street Cheese Market this week and picked up a wedge of Blue Paradise from Hook's Cheese Company. I've had a couple of other great experiences with Hooks in the past. One was a piece of 10-year-old cheddar I had on a cheese plate at the Fiddlehead Cafe in Lincoln Sqaure about a year ago (they have several nice American selections on their cheese list); it stands out in my mind as possibly the best cheddar I've ever had. The other was a wedge of their Original Blue, a simple, sharp, crumbly blue cheese that was very tasty and easy to eat.

Blue Paradise is a double cream version of that Original Blue. I didn't have them both in front of me to compare, but their flavors are very similar, with the Blue Paradise having perhaps a little more sharpness and depth. The real difference between them (and what makes Blue Paradise so special) is the texture. Whereas the Original Blue is light and crumbly, Blue Paradise is incredibly creamy. The paste is firm enough -- it's not a spreadable cheese a la Gorgonzola Dolce -- but once you put it in your mouth the rich creaminess takes over and it starts to melt. Very nice...

We had it with some port, and I wasn't terribly impressed with the combination, even though that's what was recommended. It also didn't mix so well with other cheeses, so if you're eating it that way, this one should probably be last.

Precision   {Comments: 0}

Photo by yoppy

Here's an interesting dilemma. The Indianapolis Mini Marathon was yesterday and two runners apparently broke the tape at the finish line at about the same time. One of the runners was declared the winner based on his chip time. These days runners wear chips (see yoppy's photo above) on their shoes which measure the time from the moment they cross the start line until the moment they cross the finish. In this way the exact time for every runner can be calculated even though it may take some runners several minutes to even get to the start line when there's a big crowd. It also means that the organizers can get the results online quickly following (or even during) the race.

But in this case it seems crazy to go by the chip time. Since the chip is tied to a shoe, its position can be anywhere in the runner's stride at a given moment. And since there are two moments being measured (at the beginning of the race and at the end) this potential measurement error is compounded. And of course, for yesterday's race the runner who came in second according to the official chip time claims he was the one who actually broke the tape (the traditional measure of who wins). Fortunately it sounds like race officials may review the decision considering video footage from a local TV station. But it's interesting that there doesn't seem to be any built-in mechanism for overriding the chip time in close races like this.

UPDATE: Now they've decided it's a tie.

May 1, 2008

If I had only gone with my gut   {Comments: 0}

Joe Trippi wishes he'd advised John Edwards to stay in the race, because given the way the race has turned out he'd be in a much stronger position to push his issues at the convention. But wouldn't the race be vastly different if Edwards had remained in? Considering what we know now about Clinton's and Obama's bases, wouldn't a continued Edwards candidacy have put Obama in a commanding position by now? At the time Edwards left the race, this was an open question, but the white working class demographic that are now at the core of the Clinton constituency look a lot like natural Edwards voters to me.