on hiatus

This blog is currently on hiatus. I am posting somewhat more frequently on my Dubrovnik blog, however, if you want to wander over there...

hello, spring

gold.JPGNothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

- Robert Frost

crocheted cotton can cozy

I've been using Ravelry for years now to find crochet patterns and store information about the things I've made. This summer,however, I've finally branched out a bit--first modifying patterns I'd found in minor ways, and then finally coming up with my own pattern for an item that I needed.

Since Ravelry won't let you share a pattern that hasn't been published elsewhere, I'm publishing my first original pattern here so that I can then put it up on Ravelry. It's a can cozy, made from cotton yarn, intended to keep cans from dripping in the humidity. I made my first one a week or so ago, and have been using it daily since then. Now that I know it works well, I've written up the instructions for how to make one of your own!

The body of the cozy uses a spike stitch that results in a very sturdy weave. The top and bottom are embellished with bobble stitches, which also keep the cozy from slipping in your hand.


1. Materials: Lily Sugar 'n' Cream yarn (~50 yards), F hook

2. Gauge: 3 rounds of DC (base) = 2.75"

3. Bobble Stitch (BS): *YO, insert hook into stitch YO and pull loop through* repeat* 4 more times, YO pull loop through all stitches on hook.

4: Spike Stitch (SS): SC over current stitch into space below.

Row 1 (base): Ch 3, (do not count as first dc) 11dc in the 3rd ch from hook. Join with a slipstitch in first dc. (11 sts)

Row 2 (base): Ch 2 (do not count as first dc from now on), 2 dc in each st. Join with a slipstitch in first dc. (22 sts)

Row 3 (base): Ch 2, *dc in 1 st, 2 dc in next st*, repeat from * around. Join with a slipstitch in first dc. (33 sts)

(All remaining rows will have 33 stitches.)

Row 4: Ch1, sc in back loop only of each st. Join with slipstitch in first st.

Row 5: Ch1, *sc, BS, sc* 11 times. Join with slipstitch in first st.

Row 6: Ch1, sc in each st. Join with slipstitch in first st.

Row 7: Ch1, sc in back loop only of each st. Join with slipstitch in first st.

Row 8: Ch1, sc in first stitch, *SS in next st, sc in next st*, repeat from * around. Join with a slipstitch in first st.

Row 9: Ch1, SS in first stitch, *sc in next st, SS in next st*, repeat from * around. Join with a slipstitch in first st.

Rows 10-18: repeat rows 8 and 9

Row 19: Ch 1, sc in back loop of each st. Join with a slipstitch in first st.

Row 20: Ch1, *sc, BS, sc* 11 times. Join with slipstitch in first st.

Row 21: Ch 1, sc in each st. Join with slipstitch in first st, finish off.

learning about--and from--aaron swartz

I scrapped my Game Design & Development lecture today, and instead I spoke to my students about Aaron Swartz. His accomplishments, his impact, his death. The brokenness of the systems that he fought against, and their role in destroying him. And depression--how to recognize it, and what to do about it.

Then I asked them to read these articles, to understand Aaron and how and why he died. If you haven't read them already, too, you should. There's more--so much more--out there, but these are the ones I thought would be best to start with.

Larry Lessig, legal scholar at Harvard, founder of Creative Commons: Prosecutor as Bully

Alex Stamos, the expert witness in Aaron's case: The Truth About Aaron Swartz's Crime

James Grimmelman, legal scholar at New York Law School:
Aaron Swartz, Was 26: http://laboratorium.net/archive/2013/01/12/aaron_swartz_was_26
Two for Aaron: http://laboratorium.net/archive/2013/01/14/two_for_aaron

Tim Wu in The New Yorker: Everyone Interesting is a Felon

danah boyd, social media scholar at Microsoft and NYU: processing the loss of Aaron Swartz

Harvard Business Review: "Aaron Swartz's "Crime" and the Business of Breaking the Law

Boston Globe: On humanity, a big failure in Aaron Swartz case
http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/01/15/humanity-deficit/bj8oThPDwzgxBSHQt3tyKI/story.html?s_campaign=sm_tw(may need to open an incognito window to view)

Tim Burke: Academe is Complicit

The Economist: Remembering Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz: How To Get a Job Like Mine

family latke recipe: now with pictures!

Way back in 2004, I posted my family latke recipe (much to the dismay of my kids, who felt I'd somehow betrayed my legacy). Tonight I decided it was time for an update--not the recipe itself, which has stood the test of time for generations, but the presentation of the recipe. So here it is, with illustrations!

As I noted the last time, this is not a precise recipe with exact proportions...you'll have to use the rule of thumb guidelines provided. (Before me, in fact, the recipe was in fact never written down; it was simply passed through instruction from parent to child.)


  • lots of large potatoes ("about the size of a man's fist," dad says; I generally use Idaho baking potatoes. figure at least one potato per person attending, but that's a conservative number)
  • 1 egg per potato
  • 1 "baseball-sized" white or yellow onion per ~4 potatoes (to taste, really)
  • 1 tbsp salt per 6 potatoes (again, this is to taste)

(Religious war note #1: Many latke recipes call for flour or matzo meal. Ours does not. The eggs are sufficient to bind the mixture together. So far as I'm concerned, adding additional starch is just cheating.)


Peel the potatoes and then grate using a box grater. Don't use the side that shreds, but rather the side that grates into rough "mush." (This is the side that will rip your knuckles to shreds, so be careful. My father advises putting a bandaid on before you begin, since it will protect your knuckles before the injury occurs, but I don't generally bother with this.)

I've read a number of articles that claim you can use a food processor to grate the potatoes, and then use a cheesecloth to squeeze out the excess water, but I'm too wedded to my traditional process to try this.

(Religious war note #2: Many latke recipes use shredded rather than grated potatoes, which creates a very different consistency. While I can appreciate the deliciousness of latkes made in this way, they never really feel like "real" latkes to me.)

Grating the Potatoes and Onions

Grate the onions the same way, and mix into the potato mixture. Use a ladle or large spoon to remove excess moisture...we put a heavy metal ladle onto the mixture, and the liquid drains into the ladle over the edges. Keep this up for as long as you have the patience for it; removing the water helps the pancakes stay together better when cooking. The mixture should be less like applesauce and more like mashed potatoes when you're done--but there's room for error, since you can add more eggs later to compensate for too much moisture.

After removing the water, add in the eggs and salt, and mix with a spoon or a whisk. The resulting mixture should have a texture a lot like cooked oatmeal.


Heat 3/4" to 1" of oil (we like peanut oil, but canola oil works too) in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) until a drop of water "pops" when dropped into the oil. Pour some of the mixture in with a ladle or large spoon. If it falls apart, it means that either the oil is too hot, or the mixture is too watery and needs more egg. If it drops to the bottom without bubbling at all, the oil's too cool and the pancakes will be soggy. Experiment with temperature first, because it's easier to undo than changing the ingredients.

Latkes should float above the bottom of the pan, not stick to the bottom. Use a slotted metal spatula (not plastic, as that will melt in the hot oil!) to dislodge them if they stick. When edges start to brown, flip them over (gently, so as not to spatter yourself with hot oil).

Latkes Cooking

We always do a test run of 2-3 small latkes, which the youngest among us get to taste. The test latkes determine if the batter needs tweaking--more eggs to keep the batter together? More onion or salt? (That's easy to fix with more of either.) Less onion or salt? (That's fixed by adding more potato and egg.)

When latkes are crispy around edges and golden brown on both sides, remove from pan and place on paper towels. We rip up a full roll of paper towels, and just layer the latkes and paper towels; 2 paper towels, 3-4 latkes, then 2 more paper towels over that, more latkes, etc. Keep the plate with latkes and paper towels in a slightly warm oven while you're making more, so that you can bring out a lot at a time, reducing family warfare over who gets them. (That's a best case scenario, though...tonight they were being eaten as they came out of the pan, with little regard for burnt tongues.)

Latkes should be served with sour cream and applesauce--while I can't imagine eating mine with anything but sour cream, I know plenty of applesauce aficionados. This doesn't quite rise to the level of the other latke war issues, but it's wise to have both on hand.

Platter of Latkes

american express travel fail

A few weeks ago, when my friend Elizabeth and I decided to spend a couple of days in New Orleans together, I went online to book my flights. Normally I'd use either Kayak or an airline site, but I decided to give the American Express travel site a try, since it would mean more membership miles in my account (and I'm saving them up in hopes of upgrading my trip to Dubrovnik in the spring).

I'm a pretty experienced travel booker, but I was a little sleepy when I made my plans, and when I saw an itinerary that involved leaving New Orleans at 7pm and getting into Rochester at 11:30, that looked perfect. So I booked it.

Unfortunately, it turned out that I didn't look closely enough, and the itinerary has me arriving at 9pm in Atlanta, but leaving at 9am tomorrow and arriving at 11:30am. Seriously, Amex? You couldn't have made that clearer in your interface? Delta doesn't even offer that itinerary as an option on their site. And every decent travel booking site I've ever used has made it very clear that an itinerary involves an overnight.

Okay, I thought, at least Delta has a same-day travel change service that only costs $50, so I'll call the day I leave and see if I can get on an earlier flight. But no. When I called Delta today to inquire about doing that, they said I couldn't, because the overnight layover means only the Atlanta leg would be "same-day." If I want to change my flights, it would cost me about $500 in change fees and fare differentials.

So it seems I'll be staying in an Atlanta airport hotel tonight. And you can bet I won't be booking it through the Amex travel site.


Update: It's actually a double-fail, because in addition to not warning me about the overnight, somehow Amex failed to actually get me seat assignments. I distinctly remember picking seats when I booked the flight, but when I went to check in online just now I was told my seat would be assigned at the gate--which happend flying into New Orleans, as well. Bah.


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