Bike chain fidgets

Bike chain fidgets flickr photo by ted_major shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license
I was looking up some fidgets for my kid last night, and in addition to this bike chain bracelet, I came across a fidget that was just 3 links of a bike chain.
I had a few scraps of chain downstairs, so it was a simple matter of a couple of minutes with a chain tool to come up with these. The hardest part was cleaning them enough to not leave greasy marks on everything they touch. A couple of good rinses with some degreaser and a wash with dish detergent eventually got the first one clean, but using some citrus hand cleaner with pumice between the degreaser and the detergent worked even better.
The 3-link fidget works well around one finger, and the 5-link works better around 2 or 3 fingers, depending on how slim your fingers are. All in all, I think the 3-link is a little better, but as always, YMMV.


Christmas pup

flickr photo shared by ted_major under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky toffee pudding

Recipe credit: Smitten Kitchen

flickr photo by ted_major shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Cake ingredients

  • 6 ounces pitted dates
  • 118 cups boiling water
  • 34 tsp baking soda
  • 4 TBS (12 stick) butter, melted
  • 6 TBS granulated sugar
  • 1 TBS dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 18 tsp salt
  • 12 plus 13 cup flour

Sauce ingredients

  • 4 TBS (12 stick) butter, melted
  • 12 cup whipping cream
  • 12 cup plus 1 TBS dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


The cake:

Chop the dates, put them in a heat-proof bowl or 4-cup pyrex measuring cup, and pour boiling water over them. Mix in the baking powder and let stand half an hour. Preheat oven to 350F.

Puree the date mixture. In the bowl or measuring cup, mix melted butter, sugars, and salt. Whisk in egg, then add flour, stirring until mixed. Mix in date puree. Pour into a prepared 8 x 8 pan (butter and use parchment paper to line the bottom, or just spray with baking non-stick spray). Bake for 30—35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.

The sauce:

Combine butter, cream, sugar and vanilla in a large saucepan (3 quarts) over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk for about 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly.


Cut into squares, drizzle with sauce, and top with whipped cream or custard sauce.

Because I am an idiot

flickr photo shared by ted_major under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

We’re just back from a quick overnight road trip to Athens, Ga, because I am an idiot.

Let me back up: in August we went to Asheville, NC, for a couple of days for Claire to give a talk at a conference. While she was giving her talk, Christopher asked me (AGAIN) if we could get a dog. I thought I was explaining to him why we couldn’t get another pet because I clean up all the shit I can deal with thanks to our cats. What came out was, “If you clean the litter box for a year, then we can get a dog.” I thought it was a safe bet (and so did Claire), because Christopher has always been really squeamish about any kinds of pet bodily fluids.

Boy, were we wrong. His reply was “OK!” and he’s been (mostly) cleaning the box since.

We decided he didn’t need to go the full year, since it would be better to get a new dog at the beginning of the summer rather than right as he goes back to school in the fall, and the next thing I know, we’re on the road to Georgia on the first day of Christmas break. Between mall traffic on the way out of town, road work in 459 south of Birmingham, more mall traffic and a lunch stop in Hoover, not one but two wrecks in Atlanta, and another for good measure on GA 316, our drive that should have been about 4½ hours took a little over 7.

The drive back was a little better, and well, here we are.

flickr photo shared by ted_major under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Let sleeping dogs lie

Pup minus five days and counting.

Me and you and a dog named “Boo”

flickr photo ©Syrah Goldens 2016

So this started out innocently enough. I thought I was explaining to El Chico why we couldn’t get a dog, but what came out was “If you clean the litter box for a year, you can get a dog.” So he did. And we are.

This is an 8-week-old Golden Retriever pup, and we’ll pick her up next week after exams. Wish me luck.

Best Roast Potatoes Ever

flickr photo shared by ted_major under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

J. Kenji López-Alt says it, so it must be true. I skipped the garlic-herb infused oil and didn’t happen to have duck fat on hand (imagine that!), and they were still fantastic. I’m also a little more loosey-goosey with quatities—check the original if you’re more into precision. A parboil in alkaline saltwater before roasting seasons them and creates a starchy slurry that mixes with olive oil to create an amazing crust. It’s definitely worth the extra effort and extra 15 or 20 minutes or so if you have the time.

  • 2 TBS Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut approximately 1-inch chunks
  • Olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 400F with convection (or 450F without)
  2. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add the kosher salt and baking soda.
  3. Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. López-Alt describes them as two-bite chinks and that seems about right.
  4. Add them to the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes after the water comes back to a boil.
  5. Drain the potatoes and add to a mixing bowl; toss with a drizzle of olive oil.
  6. Spread them on a baking pan (I line mine with non-stick foil ’cause I’m too lazy to clean), and put them in the oven.
  7. Roast 20 minutes, then turn and roast for another 30 minutes or so, until they’re crispy and golden.

Half-ass tiny batch burger buns

flickr photo shared by ted_major under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

  • ½ cup + 2 Tbs water
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 3 Tbs powdered milk
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 Tbs butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  1. Pour water into a mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let rest a couple of minutes to hydrate, then whisk in the sugar and powdered milk. Whisk egg yolk into the butter and then whisk the butter-egg mixture into the water-yeast mixture. Add flour and salt and mix until it forms a dough. (If you’ve the time and inclination, use a stand mixer and knead with the dough hook for 6 to 8 minutes.)
  2. Cover the bowl and let rise for a couple of hours if you’ve planned ahead or 30 mins to an hour if it’s a last-minute thing like I usually do.
  3. Divide into four pieces and form into balls for the buns. Let rise for 15 or 20 minutes.
  4. Make an egg wash from the reserved egg white and 1/2 tsp of water. Gently press the tops of the dough balls to form a bun shape and brush with the egg wash.
  5. Bake at 400F for about 15 mins or until they reach 180F in the center.

The Naming of Clowns

flickr photo shared by Chris Blakeley under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Inspired by Bryan Alexander’s recent Infocult posts on clown panic and an offhand email comment about the naming of clowns, I was reminded of TS Eliot, and, well, here’s the result:

The Naming of Clowns is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a clown must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the victims use daily,
Such as Flomo, Wasco Clown, Shoota or Gags,
Such as ClappyandSlappy, or Bingerman Clownferd
All of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a clown needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his hair perpendicular,
Or shine up his clown shoes, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Memento Maury, or Harbinger Down,
Such as Killer O’Squirrel, or else Mauler Abhorum—
Names that never belong to more than one clown.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover—
But THE CLOWN HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a clown in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

Sausage & white bean soup

Very loosely adapted from a recipe on a saltine cracker box:

  • 1 pkg. Conecuh sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • I cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 15 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 x 19 oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • salt, to taste (I used ~1 tsp)
  • 5 oz package spinach

Sauté vegetables in oil until soft, then add sausage and cook a few more minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, and broth, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste for seasonings, adding salt to taste. Turn off heat and stir in spinach until it wilts. Serve with a fresh loaf of bread.