7 Quick Takes (6/22/12)

7 Quick Takes (6/22/12) June 22, 2012

— 1 —

All things considered, it hasn’t been that rough a week.  But if I decide I need a break, I know what I’m going to do instead:

How does the US Army know if its less-than-lethal armaments are effective without being deadly? Live fire training exercises employing a mob of volunteers, of course.

That’s right, if you are over 18 and live in the greater New Jersey area, you too can get $20/hour to be whacked with batons and shot with rubber balls! The testing takes place in a non-descript one-story building, known as the Target Behavioral Response Laboratory, located a few miles from Picatinny Arsenal, the Army’s research and development center. Here, a nine-member team of engineers study how effective non-lethal technologies perform and, more importantly, the psychological reasons they do.

I did not know the Army loved empiricism as much as I do. (via Gizmodo)


— 2 —

And speaking of elaborate, analytic approaches to fighting, io9 had a cool story this week on people who are trying to reconstruct the actual way knights learned swordfighting, not the “aim for the blade to make a loud noise” style used in movies (known as “flynning“).

They have some videos on their webpage, with awesome descriptions like: “Demonstration of gripping the pommel while floryshing


— 3 —

I tend to always love Noah Millman’s theatre write-ups, so imagine my delight that he’s talking about Newsies, my favorite Disney musical (the Broadway staging is fun, but inferior).  He had a really interesting take on the plot:

And the vision of labor-management relations that comes across from Newsies is very corporate. The newsies aren’t fighting the power in order to overthrow it. They just want to align incentives in a way that’s win-win. They don’t want to be independent contractors; they want to be part of the organization. Pulitzer, who pulls some pretty evil tricks over the course of the show, isn’t banished to the outer darkness at the end. Once he’s ready to negotiate in good faith, the newsies are happy to work for him again. This, again, I think reflects where kids – at least kids of the class who might go to a Broadway show – actually are, at least if David Brooks is to be believed.

It’s a peculiar mentality for this moment in our economic history, but that’s a point for another space. What I’m more sure about is that it doesn’t make for strong theatre, which requires conflict to have a kind of primal urgency. We want to see dragons slain, not tamed, to see heroes triumph, not negotiate a fair settlement.


— 4 —

I can’t remember how I stumbled onto the drinking game “One Giant Chicken” but I’m ever so glad I did.  Look, go click the link and read through all the rules, and then go read the game recaps.  It’s a pub crawl where one person hides in a pub wearing a giant chicken costume, and everyone else goes looking, but has to buy a drink and finish a drink at every pub they check that the chicken is not in.  And then there are nuances.


— 5 —

While googling British drinking game slang I found through One Giant Chicken, I found another English drinking tradition I had missed out on.  When ‘pennying,’ you can force someone to drain his or her drinks if you surreptitiously slip a penny into their drink.  But what I loved best was the minutia:

Coins not featuring the reigning Sovereign (foreign coins and those featuring deceased monarchs) do not incur the “pennying” forfeit as their submerged nature poses no metonymical danger to the Sovereign (see History Of Pennying below). Test cases involving abdicated monarchs are not known to have arisen while one was still alive (the only example in British history being Edward VIII), though theoretically a Pennied person would owe no allegiance to someone not of the direct line of succession of the British Royal Family.

— 6 —

I was greatly amused by NPR’s call for slogans for the new Marx-themed credit card (which, inexplicably, is real).  Here is my favorite:

@lukedones: @planetmoney A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of cash back and low, low interest rates. ‪#marxcard‬

@BenMSwift@planetmoney Reach for it when you get in the red. ‪#marxcard‬


— 7 —

I had two anti-gnostic baking projects this week.  First, I made another loaf of the Easy Little Bread I did last week.  I stuck with substituting steel cut oats for rolled oats, and, this time, I toasted a cup of sunflower seeds and added them to the mix.  Below is the loaf, and one slice is already prepped with apricot preserves and herb and garlic goat cheese.

Later in the week, I made cookies for a friend’s potluck dinner/musical cabaret party.  To the best knowledge, this is the first time I’ve cracked an egg in at least 15 years.  I used this recipe for espresso chocolate chip cookies, but I 1.5x’d the espresso, added about a cup of toasted walnuts, and sprinkled sea salt on them right before they went in the oven.  (I say about a cup because the bag definitely had more than a cup, but I ate a bunch after they were toasted).  Voila!

And guess what just arrived in the mail?  Sourdough starter.


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  • Obo Joanovits

    Dear Leah!
    I have read an article about your conversion in a Hungarian Catholic news portal (http://www.magyarkurir.hu/node/40661) and have come here to visit your blog. I do not have time to read all your postings, so do not know your details of your story, but God has put on my heart to share an important message with you: Visit the courses os Saint Andrea School – and let God to write the message that you have in your mind to turn alive in your heart!!!
    This is the web of St.Andrew in the States, but it is in Spanish: http://www.sanandresusa.com/ .
    And this is the international site of this service: http://www.evangelizacion.com/ing/principal.php .
    Wishing you a more and more open heart and a wonderful life in Christ our Lord!!!

  • Just preempting the poetry answer deiseach would have come up with 🙂

    Charles Dibdin: Charity

    Why, good people all, at what do you pry ? —

    Is’t the stump of my arm or my leg ?
    Or the place where I lost my good-looking eye?

    Or is it to see me beg ?
    Lord love you, hard fortune is nothing at all,

    And he’s but a fool and a dunce
    Who expects, when he’s running full butt ‘gainst a wall,

    Not to get a good rap on the sconce.
    If beg, borrow, or steal, be the choice of mankind,

    Surely I choose the best of the three ;
    Besides, as times go, what a comfort to find

    That in this bad world there’s some charity !

    For a soldier I listed, to grow great in fame,

    And be shot at for sixpence a-day ; ,
    Lord help the poor poultry wherever I came,

    For how could I live on my pay ?

    • deiseach

      I will contribute, not in poetry, but in song; two Irish songs, both anti-war (or at least, anti-recruitment into the British Army).

      Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye – originally Irish from the 1820s, re-purposed for the American Civil War as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”

      Salonika, a song from the city of Cork during the First World War in the form of a slagging match between the wife of a Munster Fusilier serving out in Greece, and the wife of a ‘slacker’ – a man who did not join the Army for political (this was the time of the Easter Rising in 1916) or other reasons.

  • Nice job on the bread Leah!At some point in the near future I am actually going to try making bread without the Sourdough starter for the first time. I learned how to make bread while at the Jesuit house of studies in Toronto Canada, and Sourdough is always used there, so I’ve never done it any other way. However, I’m currently in Venezuela where they don’t have the ‘dough’ and I will have to make do without it. I’m anxious to see how it turns out. I may also venture more in baking this year as well. Time to branch out a little! They say that bread making can be a very spiritual experience. I’m not not quite there yet. I still worry too much about messing up th e recipe! I do have a role model though in this American Jesuit Priest (former brother) Rick Curry, who only has one arm. He has a book entitled ‘The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking’. Dunno how appropriate the title is, considering many people out there still see the Jesuits as some ‘secret society’ out to take over the world…but I still look forward to learning from him.


    • charles

      You should just have them send you some dough from Canada, nothing beats sourdough!

  • There was a summer in my time in which I watched the Newsies every single day. Every. One. I was getting ramped up in competitive swimming, which meant more practice commitments, so my fellow chlorine crazies and I would veg out between morning and afternoon practices by watching those agile boys tap around a New York [soundstage] street. Ah, now I’m going to listen to that on Spotify all day. Thank you!

    Also, where can I get a giant chicken costume? Being the chicken sounds like a lot more fun than being the chicken hunters.

  • Jerry

    Just want to say goodbye, been following your blog for a few months and truly enjoyed your reasoned (and reasonable) approach. I wanted to like theist-leah just as much, but can’t reconcile the god-talk with the thinker that I had come to know. Never had a shortage of thinking people that jumped into Kierkegaard’s gap in my circle, but there have been all too few who stood on the brink and said “as nice as that might be, it’s not an intellectually honest leap” — until this week you were among that group. I do wish you well and Pascal will be relieved on your behalf.

  • Slothmorse

    Hi, Leah! Great news about the sourdough starter — but remember that you have to take care of it.

    It’s stopped raining here in the Great North Woods, for a miracle, and I’m feeling expansive and happy with the world, so I thought I’d share an interesting and fun project I was hired to write a couple of weeks ago. The fun thing about being a ghost writer is that I get to occasionally (a) vent that old spleen and (b) not have to take the rap from critics. Oh, and (c) I get paid, too. What’s not to love? Check out http://city-traveller.co.uk/top-10-cities-around-the-world-that-you-do-not-want-to-visit/

    Best wishes for the weekend.

  • Mmmmm, those cookies look great! So does the bread!

  • While I have no gnostic tendancies to speak of, it always does me a world of good to get up to my elbows in a batch of bread dough. I don’t do sourdough though. Gus died faster than any beta fish I ever owned.

    Here’s a cookie recipe for you though: 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 2 eggs, 1 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder, 2 Tbsp espresso powder, 2 tsp kosher salt, 2 tsp baking soda, 2 cups flour. Cream the butter and sugar several minutes, until it’s pale and fluffy, but you can still feel sugar granuales when you rub a bit between your fingers. Beat in the eggs, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Whisk all the other ingredients together, and beat into the cookie dough. Drop by spoonfuls (I use a 2 Tbsp trigger scoop) onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 350F for about ten minutes. Let them cool five minutes on the sheet, then slide the whole sheet of parchment paper onto a cooling rack. The cookies are fragile until they’re entirely cooled off, that’s why I use the parchment. Store them in an airtight container when they’re completely cool. They do go stale quickly, but I don’t usually have the problem of having any left.

    • My apologies, I wrote out that recipe from memory, and hit ‘Post’ before I double checked it.

      1 tsp salt
      1 tsp baking powder
      1 Tbsp espresso powder
      and add 2 tsp vanilla

      • DEM! That’s two mistakes. It’s still baking soda, not baking powder.

    • leahlibresco

      Oh drat! I’ve fed mine twice but I still haven’t named it.

      • Charles

        I ferment a lot (Kraut, Beer, Pickles, Yoghurt, etc) – I find anthropomorphizing the cultures to just be wierd.

        • Bah. Where is your joie de vivre? If you have to feed it and water it and it doesn’t grow roots, it’s a pet. Pets or plants, they don’t survive in my house. I’m gonna stick with babies.

          • leahlibresco

            My fish did not turn out well, but at least they died accurately. I had named them after characters in Little Women, and Beth (an angelfish) died first. But Jo persisted for a long time, lasting several days after the filter inexplicably exploded (which doesn’t have such a good in-book analogue).

          • Charles

            its not for lack of joie de vivre, I’ve been known to not name pets either, seems to me to be a little presumptuous to name a cat for instance. This in no way reflects on the affection or care I give my pets.

        • Peering into my microscope today spurred some more thought on this. I don’t name my work cultures, or even consider it, although we do occasionally name the mice with the waltzing mutations. It’s not that I’m not as emotionally invested in my work cultures (if anything I’m more). It’s not at they’re primary cardiomyocytes instead of something reproducing, I never named my E. coli or Salmonella cultures. I think it really does come down to the pet-like care and feeding and watching on my windowsill that the sourdough culture requires.
          Also, naming isn’t anthropomorphizing, I’m not attributing human characteristics to my yeast. Indeed, it’s their yeasty characteristics behind their appeal. Like the ability to divide them and turn half into tasty pancakes.

          • leahlibresco

            Also, after splitting cells for seven months, I start resenting them a little. (This is when I realized I didn’t want to go into wet bench work). Sourdough does something for me a lot sooner than high throughput shRNA screening does.

          • deiseach

            Waltzing mice? I feel a Raymond Chandler quote coming on!

            “Farewell, My Lovely”, Chapter 25:

            “Okay, Marlowe,” I said between my teeth. “You’re a tough guy. Six feet of iron man. One hundred and ninety pounds stripped and with your face washed. Hard muscles and no glass jaw. You can take it. You’ve been sapped down twice, had your throat choked and been beaten half silly on the jaw with a gun barrel. You’ve been shot full of hop and kept under it until you’re as crazy as two waltzing mice. And what does all that amount to? Routine. Now let’s see you do something really tough, like putting your pants on.”

          • 🙂 I can’t reply to you, deiseach, I’ve hit the nesting limit, but waltzing mice have an inner ear mutation and you can just sit there with one on your palm and watch it run in circles. They’re pretty cute.

  • Kyle

    The Jersey Shore should totally do an episode at the Army lab. Or maybe the next session of congress should be held there…

  • Whoops, hope this doesn’t post twice–

    Check out http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/Artisan-Bread-In-Five-Minutes-A-Day.aspx


  • Julia

    Just fyi–If you like the Catholic Church, but disagree with its teachings on homosexuality, women’s status, and birth control, then the church that really suits you is the Episcopal Church.

  • Gerry

    Yeah, people play acting for $20 per hour are psychologically identical to those who believe they will get seven virgins in heaven for dying while committing mass murder.

    • SH**t! They told me seventy virgins!

      • Kathleen

        Maybe there’s more truth than we imagine: Imagine 70 elderly nuns, ineffective catechists, spending their Purgatory getting second chances, with classes full of “holy terrors.”

  • TheresaL

    Sourdough starter? I thought you couldn’t make sourdough on the east coast even with a starter because it still has to pick up some of the right type of yeast that floats around in the air. Or at least that’s what they tell us in San Francisco…

    I was just trying to keep up with posts so I didn’t yet congratulate you on your conversion. Congratulations! As an added incentive for holiness, I’m pretty sure there’s not yet a Saint Leah. There is a Saint Lea, but as a Theresa I know that an “h” makes a difference.

  • #1: That is most definitely NOT enough money for the job. 🙂

  • I AM the Way. the Truth and the Life whatever that means!

  • Len

    Wow, new to your blog (and to Patheos as well, HT to CNN), to your conversion, and to your interest in baking, so there’s a lot of catching up I’ll be doing in the next few weeks. But, in the meantime, a warm welcome to the Church (I self-identify as Catholic as well). While the brief Reader’s Digest summary on CNN mentioned the underpinnings of morality influencing your conversion, I’m presuming the whole process is a bit more complex. Just wanted to share with you the “warm fuzzy” in-common to all that are “called” to be Christians (not only us Catholics!). You’ve found yourself a Christ that loves you 24/7/365. It works for me, and I hope it brings joy to you. Look forward to following your blog.

  • Daibhi


    Your story saddens me, religion meets a human need, that doesn’t make it true or universally good. Religion fills the need people have to comprehend reality. A reality that is vast, mysterious and begs the human spirit for understanding but is nonetheless not fully comprehended. This along with the reality of death and suffering cause most people natural anxiety. To fill this need people create constructs either al a carte or borrow then whole cloth or partial from an established religion. For most, not you I hope, but for most, that’s the end of the hard part. Death, suffering, no longer have to be faced in there truth but can now be redefined. A team can be declared for and a wall can be put up between “us and them.” Athiests can be guilty of this type of tribalism too but there central premise is much more defensible. But this isn’t about debate, or intellectual rigor, or anything like that. This is about your public choice to declare yourself a Catholic. While not a bad strategy to get your blog read this will ultimately make you less independent, less credible and take you further from the truth. When Darwin saw truth he had the courage to follow it where took him as did Jesus. The scientific facts of life and the universe are clear. They comport with no major religions in their details. If love is an underlying principle of the universe and you believe that, it should be enough. Your still going to suffer and die, nature gives and takes away and our individual consciousness are but moments. Love , be fair, and do what you will anyway.

  • Karen LH

    On #7: That bread looks pretty good. I would not have thought of combining apricot preserves and garlic goat cheese. I like the concept of “anti-gnostic baking”, which I’m guessing could be extended to other things: anti-gnostic gardening, anti-gnostic cleaning, etc.

    BTW, I’m so glad to hear that you are coming into the Church. Welcome home.

    You sound like you are a reader. I would love to hear more about who you have read. Have you read any of Stanley Jaki? He seems like someone who might interest you.