Not much link love

Been watching a lot of tony awards performances. Going to my happy place.

Also discovered Sutton Foster and the Drowsy Chaperone. Here’s a bootleg of the entire broadway show:

Ask the grumpies: Gifted vs. Local school for a new Kindergartener?

K asks:

I have a 4-year-old daughter who will be starting kindergarten next year. I have two school choices that are both within a few miles of our house, and am trying to weigh between them.

Choice 1 is a well-rated public school. I don’t know much about it—the website makes it sound pretty standard.

Choice 2 is a well-rated K-12 charter school that focuses on gifted students. They mix kids into different classrooms based on ability in the subject, and the classrooms are age-mixed. Even kindergarteners switch classes in this school. They don’t expect a given kid to be gifted in all subjects and say that they meet each kid at their own level this way.

Choice 2 is more racially diverse than Choice 1… but the gifted focus takes away a different sort of intellectual diversity that I would expect to see at Choice 1.

Right now, I have the impression that my daughter is very open to learning and is pretty far ahead of her age level on academic skills. I believe she’d test as gifted, but she’s still very much a 4-year-old socially/emotionally. I don’t want put her in a school that squelches her on the learning front or on the social/emotional front. And I see both choices as having that potential, just in different ways.

What are your thoughts about these choices, both as parents and as educators?

What are the questions you would ask the schools if you were judging them?

Here’s a similar question from a past Ask the Grumpies.  Here’s one on dual language vs. gifted (this one has some links at the bottom to related questions).  (Here’s one on what dual language program to pick.)

Basically our advice was:  Visit both!

But it’s Covid-time, so you really *can’t*.  Likely they’re not in session and even if they are in session they’re having to deal with new modalities so you won’t be getting a picture of what things are going to be like (hopefully) for the bulk of your DD’s school career.

Ok… so let’s start brainstorming here.

As GT kids, we were not socially integrated until we went to a GT high school.  I was completely out-of-synch with my classmates.  I’m not sure that it’s ok yet for girls to be incredibly smart.  My own DC1 gets along a lot better with kids that are not hir age– zie gets along well with older kids in terms of interests, and gets along well with younger kids because they tend to look up to hir.  My DC2 has best friends that are hir age, but they’re all GT and two of them are just incredibly sweet people– as nice as DC1.  Social/emotionally you just don’t know which is going to be better until you try it.

I would hope that neither school will squelch academically.  If your kid is advanced, I would hope that a good public school would differentiate.

Given that the GT school mixes ages, it is likely that there is going to be plenty of intellectual diversity.  They say that not everyone is gifted in all subjects, so that’s how it is going to be handled.  I was in a first grade a bit like this for one year (before moving to the midwest) and it was pretty great.

The fact that Choice 2 is more racially diverse is a good signal.  In many places, gifted charters are not actually there for gifted students, but to cater to a white clientele who does not want to pay for private school.  These tend to be watered down.

End brainstorming.  Start thoughts about choices.

One very important thing to keep in mind when choosing between schools is that (with the exception of say Waldorf where they have some potentially harmful general beliefs about things like vaccines, but even then some are probably fine), it is generally not the modality that is important.  It is the schools themselves.  Some GT schools are fantastic places to learn that attract GT kids and are totally inclusive with dedicated teaching and acceptance of individual differences.  Some GT schools use GT as an excuse not to teach since the kids will do fine on their own, or are really just regular schools that are attempting to screen out people with brown skin (as noted above).

Some regular schools in high socioeconomic status areas are the same.  Their kids will do fine on the annual exams without their intervention, so they provide zero differentiation for smart kids.  Some regular schools are delightful with creative teachers who meet each kid within the classroom and/or allow single subject acceleration.

Sometimes these differences come down to individual teachers and you just get lucky.  But sometimes there’s good leadership and communication across teachers so they help each other out and the entire school is good.

End thoughts about choices.  Start questions to ask.

  • If you feel you’ve made a mistake with either choice, how easy it is to switch?
  • How do you feel about the administration and teaching at both schools?  Do they seem willing to work with parents?
  • (Can’t really do this one):  If you’ve visited the schools, do the kids seem happy and not acting up?
  • How will the school schedule work with your work-life?  Is there a bus? Are there after school programs?  What happens if your child misses the bus or wants to do an after school activity?
  • How do you feel about the curriculum at both schools?
  • What do they do about gifted kids?  Is there single subject acceleration (best), differentiation (second best), pull-out (better than nothing)?
  • How big are the class sizes in regular non-Covid years?  How many teachers per classroom?  (It is hard to do differentiation with a big class and no aide.)
  • Do you know any parents who have kids in either school who you could talk with?  Do you have friends of friends who could direct you to such parents?
  • In what way are the schools high rated?  Schools with high test scores and low socioeconomic status indicators are generally better schools than those with the same test scores and high socioeconomic status indicators.
  • How do they deal with bullying?  Do they believe in growth mindsets?
  • Suggestions from Grumpy Nation?

Hopefully these will both be great choices and just offer different options.

Grumpy Nation?  How would you go about making this decision?  What questions would you ask?  What advice do you have?

Thoughts on academic journal editing again

  • I’ve gotten a couple of replies from authors I’ve rejected from the journal I’m an AE at thanking me and the reviewers for our excellent and helpful comments.  I didn’t know that was a thing people did.  (The last journal I was AE at the only replies I got were asking me to reconsider my decision!  I’ve only gotten one of those so far with this journal and it was a reject-and-resubmit in which there was a fatal flaw in the paper, none of the reviewers wanted to see a revision, and fixing it was doable but would create an entirely different paper and could fundamentally change the results… my letter specifically said that changing all the minor things was not enough, and yet, they sent back a response in which they fixed all the minor things and not the major and asked me to reconsider.  Don’t be those people.)  I think as editor I think a bit more fondly of the authors who have sent the thank yous than I did before they sent it… like it’s a little weird, but also, the reviewers and I *did* send super helpful comments in each of those cases.  So maybe I’ll start doing that, but only when the comments are helpful(!)  Though I’m pretty sure Larry Katz has already formed an opinion of me (the QJE provides the most helpful comments of any journal, in my experience).
  • I also didn’t realize until very recently that the journal I’m currently at doesn’t automatically send the final results to the reviewers, just the authors.  The last journal I was at did.  (They’re different systems with different pluses and minuses.)  So I went back and sent those out for everything I’d processed since December.  All the grad students I used replied with thank-you emails which I wasn’t expecting.
  • If you are an editor and you’re planning to send out to 3-4 reviewers, keep a list of graduate students and early assistant professors as you come into contact with them as well as their areas of expertise.  Reviewing helps them because generally they don’t have many journals listed on their cvs and if you send them the other reviews they learn about the reviewing process (also they’re more likely to say yes) and they tend to take it seriously.  For the most part they’ve done an excellent job in terms of comments.  I try to only have one or two though and have the remaining people with more direct experience with the topic of the paper.  I call my list, “Victims”.
  • My undergraduate advisor sent me a paper to review last month, so I sent her one this month.  She hasn’t accepted it yet.  I’ve started adding other editors to my victims list (not Larry Katz though!)
  • At the top field journal I edited for, people got reject/R&R about right.  At my current journal which is a lower tier journal, they over R&R by a LOT (we’re supposed to only R&R about 10% give or take– it’s not a hard and fast number, but if I just listened to reviewers I’d be R&Ring like 75% even when they note fatal flaws that might not be fixable and could fundamentally change the paper if fixable).  One of my colleagues who edits for a top journal says people reject too much.   I suspect there’s a nonlinear function that intersects at the top field journal level.  I know before I took this job I only recommended reject at this level of journal if I thought the paper was not publishable anywhere.
  • When I send to people with mixed experiences editing (so some with no experience and some at the journal I’m at, for example), I will often get nearly identical comments with completely different recommendations.  The words you use are much more helpful at the journal I’m currently at.
  • I like clearing my slate for editing as quickly as possible.  I worry that I’m getting sent more papers because of this.  :/
  • One thing I didn’t realize before I started editing is how draining just making the decisions in the process is.  Fortunately for this journal I don’t have to decide on desk rejects, but I do still have to decide who to send out to and then after I get their reports, how to translate them to whether or not the paper should be rejected.
  • I find it really helpful when reviewers explain in plain terms in their letter to the editor what the main concerns with the paper is (or alternately, why they think it should be given an R&R).  It’s much harder when reviewers only send the comments to the authors, because it’s harder to get a handle on which bits are the ones responsible for a decision of Reject (or alternately, why it should be revised if they don’t spend some time explaining that in the author letter).

DH fixes things

  • Even though DH is only getting paid 50%, he’s still working 80% or more.  I caught him working on Friday this week.  He really likes programming.
  • Still, it seems like our house heard that he was going to be at part-time and then completely laid off and decided that now was a good time to have things break.
  • Our bedroom light started flickering annoyingly (strobe is a migraine trigger for me).  DH diagnosed that it was the dimmer and got a replacement dimmer switch and then swapped it out without electrocuting himself or shorting our house electricity and now it works just fine.  Cost ~$8.
  • A couple lightbulbs decided to go out.  He replaced them.
  • An A key on our electronic piano decided to just stop working.   He took apart the keyboard, cleaned the contacts on the circuit board, and put it back together. Cost:  Free, just lots and lots of time and screws that had to be unscrewed and rescrewed.
  • The magnetic catches on the bathroom window shutters all died of plastic fatigue and stopped working at all.  After I complained about the painters tape he was using to keep the shutters closed, he replaced them with metal catches that won’t die in the Southern sun.  (This one actually broke a long time ago and I didn’t mind until he put tape on things– apparently I have less problem with shutters to the bathroom that are a little open, not enough so anyone can see through, but cannot stand a bunch of blue tape advertising the fact they won’t stay shut without it.)  Cost:  $10
  • Wasp nest in the BBQ.  DH killed them dead, then killed them again when the survivors decided to start a new nest near the garage.  Then he bought a new cover for the bbq so this wouldn’t happen again.  Cost:  $4 for spray and $80 for a new cover
  • There will be a separate post on the modem router that was killed by lightening because I need to find the email DH sent me explaining everything.

Have you fixed up anything lately? Or had anything fixed? Or have things been breaking?

Link Love

A reminder to check to see that your mail-in ballot was accepted and an explanation about why signature matching is so bad for elections and who this primarily hurts (hint: democrats)

Cory Booker on why democrats haven’t been able to stop the illegitimate supreme court nomination.

One of my students this past week went on a rant about how the US isn’t a democracy. Here’s why:

When the virus hits close to home.

Man ejected from school board meeting for eating six feet away from school board members sans mask.


Ask the grumpies: What acceleration to prioritize and what about when they return to school?

Chelsea asks:

We are homeschooling because of high rates of transmission in our area and because my kids don’t sit in front of computer screens and pay attention well (TV on the other hand…). I have a question about a kid with mismatched skill levels. My DC2 just started K (will be 6 in Nov) and has very mismatched math and language levels. He’s a pretty normal Kindergartener as far as reading and writing goes (can write simple words but handwriting is terrible, can read sight words and is learning word families) but he has very good number sense and will probably be ready to start Singapore Math 2nd grade in a few weeks.

I guess the question is… should I care or try to do anything about the mismatched skill level? Like back off on math time and push reading and writing more? Or just roll with it and figure that his reading skill will catch up? DC1 made huge strides in reading in 1st grade so I assume this will probably happen for DC2…

Also, both of my kids are working ahead of their grade – at least for some things. DC1 is in 2nd grade and doing Winning With Writing and Growing With Grammar 3rd grade, etc. What should I do when they go back to school? Should I try to maintain what we’ve learned through homework (which is unappealing because they will have school homework, too)? Not really worry about it? I don’t think grade skipping is something that is done here, nor do I really think it’s what we want because I’m not sure they are ahead in every way (especially in maturity).


I’m of two minds about letting kindergarteners just explore their interests and… helping give kindergarteners the skills they need to be able to discover new interests.  I mean, learning how to read is BIG and opens up huge wonderful worlds to explore.  It’s basically necessary for everything else.  So, I’d say in this case, so long as the kid is happy with it, add some phonics.  Since he likes TV, get a copy of the Leapfrog DVDs and learn their wonderful phonics songs by heart.  Sing them while doing chores.  As you continue to read to your child, putting your finger under the words you’re reading while you do it, reading may just happen on its own without additional upper-level instruction (We loved the Step into reading readers, like Too Many Dogs and Cat Traps — way more interesting than the dreadful Bob books).  A good phonics foundation is important, but there’s no reason not to start off in a way that is easy on you and fun for the kid.  No need to add any upper-level workbooks unless you and the child want to.  We also had some fun phonics puzzles where the kids matched a picture of an animal with the name of an animal, that sort of thing.  And definitely no need to cut back on math to make room for reading– just swap in some educational videos for TV and reading together for family time.

In the more general question… should you try to keep everything even, or allow single subject acceleration… What we have generally done:  If we think there’s going to be a grade skip, we push on anything that is not on level for the next year (like memorizing facts about who “invented” the steamboat in the US).  If one of the kids is behind on something (like spelling or grammar or Spanish or handwriting or typing) because it wasn’t picked up in the schools, we supplement for that, at least up to grade-level.  For acceleration, we mostly focus on making it so they’re not bouncing off the walls.  I love math and both my kids are interested in math, so it has been easier to push them on math than on other things (though DC2, the only artist in the family, has been using youtube to help explore that side of creativity, and DC1 has an extensive and growing knowledge of magic tricks).  So, for the most part, we have a baseline level of what we expect them to have, and we make sure they’re at that baseline, then we accelerate in things they (or I) find more interesting.  But a lot of it is about getting rid of some of their energy so they don’t start moving things with their minds like in Matilda.

When they get back to school, play it by ear.  You may want to talk to the teachers about if they do single subject acceleration or if they do differentiation and clustering within the classroom.  They may need to have new placement tests.  Also look ahead:  testing out of fifth grade math is REALLY common in our school district… in DC1’s year they had two full classes of seventh grade algebra because of it.  If something like that is common, you may want to make sure you keep up with the math and fill any missing gaps.  If school is challenging enough, then only supplement if they want it.  Currently we have DC2 doing a full set of workbooks on weekends, but only Singapore Math (on grade level currently) during the week.  Since zie only does a page a day instead of a full lesson a day it doesn’t generally take that long after everything else is done.  When school wasn’t challenging enough, we had more supplementation during the week.  DC1 finished a round of handwriting practice this summer because hirs was atrocious but zie doesn’t have any other outside-of-school assignments because zie gets enough at school (as a sophomore) now and isn’t super behind on anything.

Grumpy Nation, what are your thoughts?  Anyone in a similar situation, what are your plans?  Philosophically, how do you feel about whether to allow a single subject to be super accelerated vs. making subject learning levels more even?

So many books

I continued reading the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews backwards.  I liked doing this because so many people die in the series that it’s nice to know not to get too attached.  But one problem is that the books get better as the series goes on and there’s pretty large leaps in quality between the first five books.  The first book just is not very good (which is probably why I didn’t finish it the first time through… I skipped large chunks this time around).  It’s rapey and people do dumb things.  The second book is readable but not ownable.  The third book still has people doing nonsensical things.  The fourth book is reasonably good.  The fifth book is great and smart people stop doing dumb stuff (dumb people do dumb stuff, but that makes sense because they should do dumb stuff).  The side stories are all lots of fun and worth tracking down.  I’ve also been reading drips and drabs of the new first book starring Kate’s adopted daughter, Julie on their website.  After the fifth book, each consecutive book is better.  It’s a great series.  Except, maybe skip the first book and keep plowing through the next few.

Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews was terrible and I deleted it.

On the Edge by Ilona Andrews was a really odd mix– it reads kind of like Paper Moon with magic… that kind of genre, almost 1930s black and white rural depressed.  The premise is really interesting with people living in between a magic world that’s kind of stuck in regency/Victorian times but like with somewhat better government and the real world (maybe early 2000s) US, a town with a Walmart.  But then it combines that with kind of a delightful standard regency romance?  The second book, Bayou Moon was pretty awful.  It’s really long and there’s a psychotic child murderer and I dunno, there’s no joy in it.  I skipped most of the middle and didn’t feel that happy at the end, although I did like seeing the characters in the first book again in the epilogue that kind of comes out of nowhere (after the heroine inexplicably plays hard to get?  I mean, this book is just full of stupid in addition to the awful.).  I’m not sure I have it in me to try the next two books.  Maybe if the library has them.

As predicted, I just didn’t like Take a Hint Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert.  I guess I just didn’t care about the main female protagonist that much?  She’s a bit twee and manic pixie but with an almost mean selfish streak, which is maybe cynically tongue in cheek but is it really?  She also doesn’t want a long-term relationship (not because she’s been burned or anything so far as I can tell, just doesn’t want one) and like, I don’t see why the book needs to force one on her?  The hero is an odd mix of bright and not very bright, but he’s a genuinely nice guy.  The McGuffin wasn’t enough to be convincing about a fake relationship or particularly interesting on its own.  Overall I skipped huge chunks and returned it to the library.  (And I still would have preferred reading a more realistic book about her overcoming realistic relationship difficulties with someone who challenges her like her ex-girlfriend instead of a cinnamon bun of a man, as much as I love the cinnamon bun combination for many of her other heroines, but those are heroines who need unconditional love.)  I mean sure, the relationship works and they seem happy, but deep down I think almost anybody would be happy with someone with cinnamon bun like qualities like my DH (and he would be happy too) but that doesn’t mean I want to read about all such pairings.  I still plan to read about the third sister.

The Shinigami Detective series is DELIGHTFUL.  All of my worries about inappropriate appropriated “Orientalism” were completely unfounded– she’s only called that because (and this is in the prologue, so not a spoiler) she reads manga and made a side-comment that roughly translates to oh, I’m an angel of death, and then the word shinigami stuck.  She’s from California and the only mystic secrets she knows are the kind that someone with her background in California would believably know.   The books are not really mystery novels so much as police procedurals.  You’re not going to figure out who the guilty person is on your own because often the suspects aren’t introduced until you’re fairly sure they’re the guilty person.  So more Conan Doyle than Christie.  Still, quite enjoyable reads.  (My mom would not like them though!  She prefers figuring out whodunnit,)  After reading the first one I ended up buying the remaining 3 (each as I finished the last).  I am pondering trying her other books.

As per usual, The Sugared Game by KJ Charles was great.  This series is not one of my favorites of hers, but all her books are so good that even the ones that aren’t my favorites are still really fantastic books.  (And they’re generally only not my favorites when they’re darker– her Sins of the City series are incredibly high quality and yet I do not want to reread the first two because they’re so grim even with the happy endings and the other books in that series and related series being lighter and all around wonderful.)

Two Rogues Make a Right was decent.  It’s another Cat Sebastian where not much happens but the characters grow together.  I am not disappointed with these kinds of books– I like them much better than introducing stupid misunderstandings just to have conflict and a plot (though I guess this book does have some of that).  Still, I do like her rollicking romances where there’s an external plot happening while the characters fall in love a bit better– I recently reread The Soldier’s Scoundrel/Lawrence Browne Affair/Ruin of a Rake— so very good..

Stormwalker by Allyson James was pretty decent, though there were some uncomfortable tropes in it around consent and so on.  I really liked the novella set right after this book in Hexed, so I decided to try the main series.  If the rest were available from the library I’d read them, but I have no desire to own.

Reread the Carhart Series by Courtney Miilan (because she tweeted about how nobody got her math pun in Proof by Seduction, but I did!)  Still good.

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity was a fun fun romp.  I thought I’d outgrown the Craig Shaw Gardner variety of humor, but apparently I just needed a better version of it.  Constance Verity Saves the World was also fun, though not quite as funny.  They make fun of so many tropes.

Last, if you obtain just one book from this list, I suggest it be the latest Courtney Milan.  The Duke Who Didn’t is like a warm hug.  Just read it.

What are you reading these days?


  • DH’s niece who is legally blind has been switched to in-person schooling.  It sounds like their midwestern school district is doing this correctly where the high-needs students get priority for in-person schooling.
  • Instacart continues to get worse.  So we’ve been shopping more and more at the grocery store that does its own curbside.  I really hope our preferred grocery store stays in business and keeps carrying the things that we can’t get without driving into the city, but instacart is just too stressful to deal with.
  • Of course, I’m also irritated at our curbside place because I have to provide my own bleach/alcohol wipes for work and wipe everything I’m going to touch down before class… and I’m running low on wipes.  So I ordered some from the curbside place and for $10.30 they gave me a huge container of wipes that are not approved against covid (active ingredients:  citric acid and lemon grass).  I wish we’d had them last week when I accidentally spilled defrosted meat in the refrigerator (which is why we are running low), but in general they are not useful for us since we mostly clean with rags and the occasional paper towel.  (Fortunately I do have a couple extra bleach sprays and paper towels so I can take those to work, they’re just heavier and bulkier than clorox wipes.)
  • DC1 wants to know why someone always has to die in order for a privileged white dude to come of age.  Granted, it’s usually a privileged white dude who dies in these books, and sometimes the one who you know, came of age by dying alone in Alaska, or defied his father by committing suicide.  But sometimes it’s a less privileged best friend that the protagonist kills.  (I guess when someone else comes of age it’s a black man who has to die?  Not to point fingers at much better books, but… there is kind of a pattern…)  DH says it’s like dogs dying, which yeah, that was the earlier trope.
  • It’s all about the PATHOS.  Or as one of our terrible male high school English teachers said, all great literature is about sex or death.  (Which our classmates carried through to the next class to sometimes hilarious results… since it turns out Bartleby the Scrivener isn’t, and Emily Dickenson wrote at least a few poems that aren’t.)
  • DC1 had to do some stupid rote thing for a chemistry lab so zie programmed hir calculator to do it all automatically.  I’m so proud.  (Though I do wonder if it’s something that could have been done using fill down in Excel…)
  • They also had to cut straws in order to use them to make a bar chart?  Which seems really dumb to me and wasteful.  And it was a lab that was due the day it was assigned, so we didn’t have enough straws (DC1 found 2 from a leftover take-out order) so zie had to roll up paper.  Which is at least less wasteful.
  • I went to a small virtual conference with people from Blue states and it’s just crazy how differently Covid is being treated by their universities.  They’re all teaching virtually except one person at Boston College who gets tested 2x/week(!) and everyone has temperature checks before they can enter a building.  People at Stanford have to go through a lengthy approval process the day before just to get into a building.  They were horrified by my experiences and shocked that it seemed like no big deal that 4/15 students in one of my classes have informed me they had Covid (the real number may be higher since they do not have to tell me why they’re attending virtually).
  • At least the weather is nice and we don’t seem to be affected by the disasters on the West coast?  (sigh)
  • There are three huge trump banners up in my neighborhood.  Biden/Harris signs have started popping up, including our own, but they are nowhere near as ostentatious.  The entrance to our HOA has an “Any Functioning Adult 2020” sign up.
  • Apparently there was also a trump car parade the other weekend.  A very very vocal minority.  Those of us in “Red” states need to not be cowed and need to make our voices heard so that people believe there’s a point to voting.  Because voter suppression is real and we need to fight it.
  • Two of the three houses diagonal from us (we’re on the corner of 3 streets) have Trump/Pence signs.  But most of our own street is Biden Harris, which is nice.  The Trump/Pence people directly across don’t take very good care of their ostentatious yard (that was so beautiful back when the non-evil people before them owned it).  That whole street has gone to crap, really.  And not because they’re poor– this is a reasonably expensive neighborhood.
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Link Love

Have you voted?  We’re planning on voting after doing door hangers this morning.  One of my RAs said it was 20 min wait to vote on campus (which is normal), but one of my friends said there was a LONG line at the utility center where we normally vote– that place is usually deserted!

Today is also the BIG SEND day for votefwd.  So we’ll be dropping those envelopes off at the post office today.  I’m guessing they’ll have addresses up for a few more days, so check!

And… just because we’re all super focused on the election, doesn’t mean we should ignore what is going on in congress right now.  I know a lot of people are feeling defeated about the Supreme Court thing, but we should still protest it.  First off, only two R senators need to flip.  Second, if there’s a groundswell of support Dem senators can say, see, this is what my people want, and Rep senators can feel nervous about their choices.  Third, if we make this difficult for them, especially during an election year, then they are less likely to do more horrible stuff… if we are complacent they will ram through as much horribleness as they can as quickly as possible.  Protesting now delays whatever the next awful fascist thing is.  Also there is a very important Supreme Court case coming up… if you want to keep the pre-existing conditions exclusion, we need to delay Barrett’s confirmation at least that long.

This whole thread is very good.  Make noise.  Note especially the discussion about Covid as a pre-existing condition.

Here’s where to find out if your senator is on the judiciary.

This description of what it is like flying during the pandemic makes me really not want to risk flying to DH’s family at Christmas.

Senator Gary Peters discusses his abortion experienceDonate to his re-election campaign here.

The guy behind Amptoons gives a detailed illustration of how he made his voting decisions.

How Ouija boards really work.

Ask the grumpies: Recommendations for Bread books (with some bonus other baking books)

Natka asks:

It looks like your husband uses a mix of on-line recipes and cookbooks… Any recommendations for tried-and-true bread books (especially sourdough) for amateurs?

Bread by Treuille and Ferrigno has a lot of explanation of different bread-baking processes and a number of their recipes involve a starter and they explain how you can modify any recipe to use a starter in the intro. I got a copy for my sister because it explains so much. (There are multiple editions– we have the 2004 one.)  I can’t think of any dud recipes we’ve made from there.   I think we started with the Stromboli recipe (so did my sister, actually) and are currently going through it somewhat in order, skipping recipes that require ingredients we don’t have (I keep telling DH we should just get malt extract, but our local brewing store only sells it in gallon increments…)

If you’re into whole grain only breads, The Laurel’s kitchen bread book is the one you want. It explains how whole grain breads being thirstier means they are treated differently. I’m sure at least one of those mystery breads listed is a bean bread from Laurel’s.  These have all been good and there’s some discussion of things to look out for while making the breads which is helpful.

Ok, so those are our two books that are both tried-and-true bread books and good for people who want a little more guidance.  We also have a number of other baking books.

Baking with Julia doesn’t have a lot of bread (it does have some though!), but it is a fantastic teaching book for other baked goods.  This is how DH mastered the pie dough, for example.  It’s an all-around fantastic book.

Home Baking by Alford and Duguid is a wonderful book taking you around the world and helping you make different breads.  There’s not so much detailed how-to as in the Treuille and Ferrigno book, but we’ve found it pretty easy to make things like pita bread from their instructions.  And the pictures are gorgeous.  For a long time it was our coffee-table book.

If you want to up your sourdough game, Flour Water Salt Yeast is where to go.  I personally don’t have the patience for this one, but DH does.  We also have Artisan Bread in five minutes a day, but DH quickly got tired of it.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe the Jim Lahey original no-knead recipe is just good enough.

We talk a lot about Pure Dessert.  This is mostly a desserts book, but it has our favorite brioche recipe in it.  The recipes are generally pretty simple but often call for unusual ingredients that we have to special order.  (, not a sponsored link, has a lot of them.)

Simple by Ottolenghi isn’t a bread book, but it does have some quick breads in it. So far we’ve been astonished with how good a lot of the recipes are.

And, of course it is no longer anywhere near in print, but I taught myself baking from the Old Fashioned Cookbook by Jan McBride Carleton which remains one of my favorite cookbooks of all time.  The bread section is especially wonderful, particularly all the Christmas breads.  (Likewise the cake section, and the stews… really it’s just an all-around fantastic book.)

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Grumpy Nation, what are your favorite baking books?  Do you bake bread?  Where do you get your recipes?