Haven’t had a coffee-themed post in a while, so here’s this.

Coffee 2014 from jayr sotelo on Vimeo.

h/t Scott Wegna


Happy New Year, everybody; happy birthday Country Joe. I resolve to do what I always do.

So this appears to be my kid’s favorite Xmas present:


Goodbye WP-to-Twitter and Twitter Widget Pro #potcert

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Alexander Rutz
I came in to the office this morning to find an email from a student (sent last night) complaining that he couldn’t open the link to today’s assignment on my WordPress blog. Sure enough, I couldn’t open the link either, nor could I bring up the main page or the WordPress admin page.

Uh-oh. Just what I want to deal with before class: my site is gone. Nothing but a blank page.

A quick call to Bluehost tech support (<20 sec. to talk to a person!), and he found that the error log showed a string of errors from WP-to-Twitter. He renamed the directory to disable the plugin, and my website came back immediately. I have my class domain set up with WP Multisite so that I can have different blogs for different classes and POTCert. I only use twitter with one of the four domains I have in the network, however. The other 3 constantly throw a warning message onto my Dashboard that I need to authorize Twitter.

Well, I don’t want to authorize Twitter for all of my blogs. I don’t want my Twitter stream clogged up with every bit of administrivia, every announcement, and every assignment I post for all of my classes. I’m pretty sure my followers don’t either. (You’re welcome.) So until today, I just ignored the warning messages.

After I got off the phone, I deleted WP-To-Twitter from my network, and then Twitter Widget Pro started throwing the same warning that I need to authorize Twitter. Not wanting to take another chance of blowing up my site, I deleted Twitter Widget Pro.

To be fair, both of those plugins work beautifully on this site, which is a single WP installation. But on a Multisite installation where some sites use them and others don’t, they’re a disaster waiting to happen.

Why does MSI call it the “Wind”?

I have an old MSI Wind netbook (U123) that has a crufty old WinXP installation that’s gotten old & slow. I don’t really need a Windows machine anymore, so I decided to put on a clean installation of windows and use it as a dedicated VAG-COM scanner with VCDS Lite to keep our aging VWs on the road for a few more years.

And that’s when my troubles began. You see, when MSI shipped it with restore and driver software, they shipped it on shiny silver discs. For a machine with no optical drive. There was no restore partition, so the F3 factory restore function didn’t work. On top of that, WinXP isn’t designed to install from a USB stick, just from a CD. On top of that, the MSI recovery CD didn’t have a full Windows installation on it. Luckily, I had an old CD of WinXP Professional (SP1!) from a now-defunct desktop PC I built way back in ought-three (Sometimes being a packrat comes in handy).

Eventually, I found my way to WinSetupFromUSB, software that will copy Windows installation files from a CD to a bootable USB drive, but only on a Windows machine. Luckily, I still had the old Windows installation in place on the netbook, so I ripped an ISO on my Ubuntu laptop, copied it to the netbook via USB stick, and created a bootable USB. At that point, installation only took two tries–when the Windows installer wants to reboot and says to remove any floppies, don’t remove the USB stick. At that point I had a working WinXP box, but only with SP1. My home network uses WPA2 authentication, so I couldn’t connect to the network. I then downloaded SP2 & SP3 from Microsoft, copied to a USB stick and transferred over to the netbook. To connect to the network, I had to go into settings and change the security from WPA2-PSK to WPA2 to connect. At that point, Windows found over 122 updates to download, plus I needed Firefox and Avast! antivirus. All in all, I started on Wednesday evening and it took until late Thursday afternoon to get everything installed and running. Ugh.

Sugar Cookies

Claire’s been reminding me to blog this one for awhile. The recipe makes a big batch of cookies (5 dozen!), but you can freeze some of the dough for later.

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 400F.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
If you want to use cookie cutters, roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick and cut into shapes. For round cookies, you can also roll the dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and cut into slices (hint: to save some for later, divide dough into fifths, roll each portion into a 1 1/2 inch cylinder. Wrap four of them in foil and freeze. When you thaw them, just slice into 12 pieces and bake).
Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets, and bake 6 to 8 minutes.

Based on a recipe from


IMGP0264 by ted_major
IMGP0264, a photo by ted_major on Flickr.

Went to make biscuits for breakfast this morning, and I realized I’ve never blogged by biscuit recipe. Based on a recipe from The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup lard (use shortening if you must, *sigh*)
  • 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400F.
Mix dry ingredients in a a large bowl and then cut in the lard with a pastry blender. Add milk (you may need just a splash more to moisten all the flour). The dough wil be sticky, so flour your hands and the counter well. Knead a few times to make sure everything is mixed, but don’t go overboard or you’ll develop the gluten and get a chewy, tough biscuit. I’ve given up on the traditional roll, cut into rounds, roll the leftovers and cut again method. Instead, I pat them out into a rectangle 3/8″ thick, and then cut into 12 squares: no risk of over kneading & no wasted dough.
Bake 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Home fries

Home fries by ted_major
Home fries, a photo by ted_major on Flickr.

Until recently, I’ve never really been able to make great home fires. I mean, they were okay–you can’t really go too far wrong with fried potatoes as long as you’re somewhere between under-cooked and burned. Thanks to this technique from Cook’s Illustrated by way of Smitten Kitchen, I have accomplished sublime home fries. (Unlike Smitten Kitchen, I think mine come out better in cast iron than nonstick; YMMV) The keys are to pre-cook the potatoes and cook the onions separately.


  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Put the potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 Tbs butter and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave about 5 minutes, shaking halfway through. Beware the steam build-up under the plastic wrap.

Meanwhile, sauté the onions in 1 Tbs butter over medium heat. When they’re soft and just starting to brown, turn them out of the pan into a bowl. Add another 1 Tbs of butter to the pan and cook the potatoes over medium heat until browned, stirring occasionally. Add the onions, salt, pepper, and optional smoked paprika.

Delicious with poached eggs.

Poached eggs

Poached eggs by ted_major
Poached eggs, a photo by ted_major on Flickr.

Techincally, they’re not really poached because they don’t come into contact with the cooking liquid. However, there’s no vinegar taste from the liquid and they keep a nice shape. (The pan also doesn’t need washing.)

  • Eggs
  • melted butter

Bring a pan of water to a simmer.

For each egg, you’ll need a square of plastic wrap and a piece of kitchen twine. Butter the plastic wrap and lay it into a ramekin or coffee cup. Crack an egg into the plastic wrap and then twist it shut and tie off with the twine. I like to leave just a little air space so that it floats–without the airspace, it can sinke and the bottom of the pan can melt the plastic wrap.

Put the wrapped eggs in to simmering water and leave them for about 6 minutes (less if you like a runnier yolk, longer if you like it firmer). Pull them out, cut the string, and turn out onto the plate.

Pumpkin biscuits

Pumpkin biscuits by ted_major
Pumpkin biscuits, a photo by ted_major on Flickr.

I was going to make a batch of sweet potato biscuits this morning, but the can of sweet potato I had expired last July (and it truly was expired–yuck). I decided to sub pumpkin instead and they turned out very well–even my kid munched on them.

    • 1.5 cups flour
    • 2 Tbs sugar
    • 1.5 tsp baking powder
    • .5 tsp salt
    • .5 tsp pumpkin pie spice
    • 1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
    • 4 Tbs butter (1/2 stick), softened (30 seconds in the microwave at 40% power does it for me)

Preheat oven to 425F (use convection if you have it.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix pumpkin puree and softened butter and add to dry ingredients. Stir to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured counter and knead a few times, then pat out into a rectangle 3/8″ thick. Cut into 12 squares. Cut into rounds if you prefer, or pat into 2 rounds and cut into 12 wedges like scones if you prefer, but cutting into squares is quick & easy and avoids re-kneading and re-rolling the dough.

Bake 10 minutes or until lightly browned.