New Blog Location... New Website as well!!

After paying Dreamhost to host my website for 3 years I decided to make the most of it and move everything to my craig.snoeyink.org domain. The new site for the blog can be found here: craig.snoeyink.org/blog , all my pictures will be posted here: craig.snoeyink.org/gallery , and all my old photos can be found here: craig.snoeyink.org/photography.html .

If you are looking for a web hosting service I highly recommend them. The blog and picture hosting software are "one click installs" which basically means they are really simple to set up. Someone else is using a "one click install" bulletin board service for a class and there are many others that are availiable. Its nice for me I think just because then I don't have to rely on other companies changing policy or whatnot (flicker... I'm shaking my fist at you!!!) and all my stuff is still mine since I tend not to read fine print.

If you would like to do something similar send me an email, I don't use nearly all the storage space or bandwidth that comes with my plan so I would be happy to host a website for you. All you have to do is pay for the domain name (About 10$ a year) and I can help you set it all up! I'm all ready doing this for two other people, www.earthglowmasonry.com and www.nettyprovost.org .

Thanks, and sorry for the inconvenience of switching!



So I have become somewhat obsessed with bread lately. I chalk it up to my engineering need to understand why just throwing yeast, water, flour, and salt into a bowl doesn't result in the artisan bread you see at the store. So, I am going to try to write down what I have learned and at the end I will give two recipes: one for a fairly flavorful stretchy bread and another for flat bread (pita).

Just a disclaimer: This is the understanding that I have come to and it may in no way represent reality!

Lesson 1: Less is more. The less kneading you do the better. The less yeast you can use, the better.

Why less kneading? Well artesian bread is inhomogenious. You can see it the second you cut it open! Small holes, big holes, medium holes... all kinds of sizes and shapes and this gives the bread a great and somewhat complex texture. What does mixing do? it homogenizes the bread resulting in all holes that are the same size (usually very small). This is why the bread you get from the supermarket looks like a sponge. It is far easier to over mix and ensure every batch is the same on an industrial scale then it is to mix just enough. We shall see later how to get the gluten links that give us stretchy dough without mixing!

Why less yeast? We like the byproducts of yeast growth for flavor but we don't necessarily like the yeast itself. If you can start off with alot less yeast, let it ferment for a while, and then use it in your bread that is better. This is called using a "starter" and there are many different kinds of starters that condition the yeast to produce certain byproducts. For instance a wet starter will produce a different flavor then a dry one and the same goes for hot vs. cold.

Wetter is Better: In general your dough should be wetter then you think.

Alot of people (myself included) when they make a dough like to add flour until the dough forms a nice round ball that they can handle with ease. Sticky dough is just a pain to work with! However sticky dough is moist dough and you are about to throw it into a 425 degree oven. And just like Arizona, that is a dry heat! The amount of water in the dough varies alot for different recipes but in general, wetter is better.

Autolysing, who'd a thought? Add water to flour without salt and yeast and gluten forms in abundance.

Some guy in France developed this so props to them! Basically, if you mix the flour and water and lit it sit without the salt and yeast a tremendous amount of gluten can form. It turns out that both salt and yeast inhibit its formation. Ask me why and I won't be able to tell you. Although, I do know that salt can cause some proteins to "salt out" of solution. In anycase, this gives us a route around the mixing problem. If we autolyse the dough we can get by with less kneading.

Now on to the recipe:

"Somewhat Artisan Bread"


4 c. Flour (I highly recommend "King Arthur's All Purpose Baking Flour")
1 1/2 c. Water (Vary Warm)
Several Pinches of Salt
2 tsp. Yeast

Note: I just got a kitchen scale for Christmas! Stay tuned as I am going to work out the weight proportions of flour and water so that I can do it much more quickly in my food processor.

Ok, take 1/2 c. warm water and mix it with 1/2 c. of flour. This is going to form a kind of pre-ferment. Once they are well mixed together (it will be very soupy) mix in the yeast and let set for 20 min - 30 min. Once that is done take the remaining water and add slightly less then 2 c. of flour to it in a large bowl. Here it is important to not have too firm of dough. If it isn't sticky add alittle more water. If it is to firm then it will make the next part pretty tedious. Let this also sit for 20 min - 30 min. Less if your kitchen is warm and more if you keep your house freezing like I do!

Once the pre-ferment mixture has at least doubled in size we are ready to mix both parts together. This won't be easy as the flour water mixture has become very stretchy. I recommend either getting your hands dirty and squirting the dough between your fingers or using a fork to kind of chop up the dough and quicken the process. If this is too difficult make a mental note to add less flour to the flour water mixture next time. Once the two are mixed you can start adding flour and folding it into the dough. There is no set amount of flour to add, I usually just add alittle at a time until the dough is just not sticky enough that it seems pleasant to work with. Then I stop and put the dough back in the bowl and cover it in plastic wrap.

Wait about an hour.

Sprinkle a little flour on the top of the dough and a little on the table. Turn the dough out on the table and fold it. We are not punching it down because we want to preserve the air in it. Rather at this stage we are trying to massage the dough to encourage gluten formation and to form a skin. This is how we form a skin: massage the dough out flat on the table, fold in in half left to right, massage again, fold top down, massage, fold right to left, massage, fold bottom up. Thats about it. You will notice that the side facing the table never changed. This will eventually be the "skin" of the dough. Place back into the bowl skin side up and recover.

Wait 2-3 more hours depending on how forgetfull you are and how warm your kitchen is. Next we are going to form the dough. Turn it out onto the table like we did before. Cut it into two pieces with a very sharp knife. We want to preserve the skin so for both pieces place the skin side on the table and then very gently fold the dough so that the newly exposed sticky part is back inside the dough and the skin has been stretched to cover the cut. Let this set for about 10 minutes to rest covered in plastic wrap so that we can form it later. After the dough has rested fold it again in half short ways so that now we should have a stumpy rectangle. Gently roll this with the palm of your hands into a longer loaf like shape. Once you are done place on a well corn mealed cookie sheet and recover with plastic wrap.

Wait 30 min - 1 hour depending on temperature of kitchen.

Once the loafs have risen again by about 50% (i.e. we don't want them to double in size just to increase in size by 150%. You can put them in the oven preheated to about 425 F. At this point I usually spray water into the oven with a spray bottle to help humidify the air and prevent a crust that is too dry and thick.

Wait about 30 - 45 min based on the temp of oven and size of loafs.

Once the outside is nice and golden brown you can take out and place on a cooling rack, uncovered! Let cool completely before trying! (Ok, it can still be alittle warm :-) )Remember we made a very moist dough so it needs to cool down and firm up before it can support being cut into by a knife.

Flat bread/ Pita.

Note: This bread is much more forgiving of heavier flours like whole wheat flours. It doesn't change the recipe at all except for you want the dough a little drier then usual after you are done mixing it.

This is done much the same way only after the dough has risen for 2-3 hours we cut the dough into about 8 - 10 pieces. Form each piece into a small ball, again trying to preserve the skin and let rest covered for about 10 minutes. We don't strictly need to do this sense the process of cooking on the skillet takes care of the skin but it helps tremendously in handling the dough. During this time oil a skillet (preferably cast iron) and warm it over medium/low heat. You will have to play with the heat as it is different for each type of burner.

Flatten out a piece of dough using as much flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Once the dough is between a 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick you simply place it on the skillet. Wait about 20 seconds or until you start seeing little lumps appear. Flip it over and do another 20 - 30 seconds on the other side.

If your skillet temperature is too hot then you will have already browned both sides at this point and we still have about a minute of cooking left! If it is too low then the next step, where we cause the pocket of steam to form, wont work. On my electric stove it is about 2.75 on a dial that goes from 1 - 10. If I do 3 it is too hot and 2.5 is too low. Yes, it is that sensitive!!!

After the second side has had its 20 - 30 seconds flip it back over to the original side and press down on the pita with your spatula. We want real good heat transfer to make alot of steam very quickly. After about 10 seconds or even as long as 20 to 30 seconds of this when you pick up the spatula you should start to notice the pita poof up a little. Encourage this by pushing on the bubble and trying to get it to spread.

After the bubble has spread completely I usually flip the pita over again and press down with the pita to brown this side as well. If the bubble doesn't spread completely it isn't a huge loss, just flip it over before it burns. The pita will still taste great!! Each pita does not cook for very long and if you do it right you should barely have enough time to roll out the next one during each 20 - 30 second waiting period.

I have heard of people doing this on a stove with a pizza stone. It is supposedly more reliable and you can do more then one at once but I have never had much luck.



"Ah, you seem to be leading me. Quite all right though, the last thing of a professor to die is the will to pontificate. You can still hear them in most drafty universities whispering on ."

"Where was I, oh yes..."

Yip continued on for several hours. They had settled into a certain rhythm and the rule was Yip talked and Chuck listened.

What he heard this time was different. This wasn't a story in the typical sense but rather a recipe for space travel. Space, you see, has 5 dimensions, four for distances and one for time. The four we are all aware of and a fifth which is best understood as a radius. In a very real sense the space we are familiar with is stretched out on the surface of a sphere. Now we see why Yip began talking about inter-planetary travel with ancient drams of intra-planetary travel. In much the same way that one can fall from one point on the earth to any other one call fall from one point in space to any other.

Can you imagine! Early man certainly did and Chuck imagined himself on Earth looking at the stars as once they had looked across the ocean.

"But how do you fall out of space?" he asked, then quickly covered his mouth at the interruption.

"Heh. I will tell you." then Yip smiled.
"And maybe you will understand where many balk and cry"

It is true. The sphere that all of space that we know and see is wrapped around isn't very big. In fact, it is quite smaller then even an atom. Do not ask how, as Chuck invariably did, just accept this, every point in space is theoretically much closer to every other point then you could possibly imagine. Still, it is common knowledge that traveling to the country outside the city requires traversing a distance much larger then is wanted. So, how then can one take the true shortest path?

"Black holes" he said and then paused for effect.

"Only in a black hole where space curves in on itself to an infinitesimal point can two separate locations 'tunnel' through the fourth dimension of space. Only you wouldn't want to fall into a black hole, even if it did shorten the distance considerably!"

Scientists, he continued, eventually solved this through Quantum Mechanics. Specifically Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle which states that you can never know both the speed and position of a particle. Black holes, if they are infinitesimally small, provide a way of knowing the position of a particle perfectly! This means the speed is infinitely large which is impossible.


Day: 1

Chuck leaped from the platform. Not, of course, because he had to but because leaping is one of the many Chuck does. At times he likes to think that it impresses the ladies. Other times it is simply for the pure joy of it.

So, as I said, Chuck leaped from the platform and then continued walking. Not that this made him stand out any less for he had the particularly nasty habit where his head was not pointed where his body would soon follow. If he was in a larger city or more important planet he might have passed for a naive tourist but this was neither.

No, Chucks planet was functional at best and haphazardly strewn about at worst. One could not call it dirty since mankind had long since learned the virtues of staying out of mother natures way. But it was not clean. Cleanliness entails order and purpose and it is clear that no coherent thought, ideology, or force had shaped this city.

Walking was one of the things that made Chuck happy and it was something he did fairly frequently. He had, what could be called, the luxury of rich yet deceased parents and this afforded him liberties not available to many of the people he passed by. Some might find it ironic that one so well born might find comfort in the vary people this industrial planet seemed to use as fuel. Little nuggets born and brought up to maturity in order to be consumed and eventually exhausted back to the planet they came from.

He couldn't articulate what it was that so attracted him to these people but it was clear to him that they were different from his kind and different was good. He made a hard left and 100 meters or so brought him to the entrance of a vast drainage pipe home to his favorite person in his world. He had only learned his name two weeks or so ago and it still brought him delight.

"Stop grinning, you look like a fool." said Yip

"Sorry, I was just thinking of your name and how much I am sure that dog I saw just 5 minutes ago would love to say it." he said, is grin widening.

Yip only grunted and turned to go into his makeshift home. As he did so it was clear again that he did not belong here. If one were to glance at him no doubt they would see his uncut hair and the ragged edged hole where his right ear ought to be and dismiss him as senile. But his posture, bearing, face were of a man who had experienced far more then a hermits struggle for existence.

At this cold greeting Chuck faultered, as he always did, and asked if this was a bad time.

"For Hiesens sake get inside," Yip spat then muttering "and grow a spine".

Yip shuffled back into his house with Chuck following still trying to absorb as much as he could from the environment.

When Yip had finished the ancient practice of brewing tea for a guest the two settled down into the makeshift chairs and sat in silence. Each would sip their tea, content to be lost in the thin whisps of steam curling upward from their cups. Truth be told, despite having chosen this drain pipe as his home 15 years ago for its lack of neighbors, he enjoyed these visits nearly as much as Chuck did.

"Tell me about the Great Expansion." Chuck finally said.

Yip snorted and went back to his tea. Several small bits of leaves had settled to the bottom of his cup and he concentrated on them.

Chuck though had played this game before and simply waited.

Slowly, he began "They no doubt taught you the structure of hyperdimensional space. Polititions and aristocrats must be capable of conjuring up this image a will when interviewing for the news service."

Chuck ignored this reference and mearly nodded.

"Then what they told you is true. They don't capture the majesty of it all though. The shear arrogance required..." at this he chuckeled to himself.

"Never mind that. For as long as we have understood gravity it has been fun to think about falling through a planet to reach the other side. It is an fluke, or by design if you will, that if you dug a hole straight from you to anywhere else on the surface of the planet it would take the same amount of time to fall through that hole and pop out at your destination. This is true no matter if the other point is straight dead opposite of you or somewhere off to the side. "

Maybe this was why he enjoyed Chucks visits. Sometimes it isn't so much companionship that people need but an audience. The urge to talk about his passion returned though and he continued. Or at least tried. Chuck though took the break as an opportunity for interruption.

"Yes, but wouldn't banging against the sides and such slow you down quite enough so that you wouldn't make it?"


Recycling huh,..... what is it good for....

So while I wait for national novel writting month and while I work up the energy to finish my last post on the credit crises I'd like to talk about recycling and why it is bad.

Most people get kind of angry when I say that.

I ask you this, can you name a material, besides aluminum, that you don't have to pay to get recycled? The answer is likely no because besides aluminum it does cost money to recycle.

The problem is that the primary cost of most things with suitable competition is energy. It is actually kind of a fun game to go back through the manufacturing and lifetime of a product and to see how much of its cost is related to energy the main premise here is that raw meterials do not technically cost anything. They exist. What costs us is the process of moving them and changing them to suit our needs. However, even the tools necessary to refine a raw material had to come from a raw material themselves.

The end result is that the cost of an item is a fairly good estimate of the amount of energy that went into producing it.

So, if it actually costs money to recycle trash then it must be that it costs more energy then it would have taken to just use the raw material.

Most energy, in the united states anyway, is produced by coal or natural gas. Both of which produce polutents and CO2 in spades. So recycling increases both of these. You are, in a sense, trading one form of polution for another.

The same goes for using hybrid cars. If a car costs more then you would save in gas then you are not doing the environment a favor. The only way to reduce polution is to reduce consumption.

In other words: buy a compact car, don't buy crap, pay attention to redundent packaging (the cost of bottled water is mostly the bottle) and be more frugal with more obvious energy wasters like leaving computers/lights on constantly or running the heater/air conditioner excessively.