Gas station without pumps

2020 October 9

Scones again for bread and tea

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:22
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I made scones again, modifying slightly the recipe I used last time, but this time I’ll take photos:

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Mix dry ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
handful of flame raisins


8 tablespoons cold butter

and cut in the butter with a pastry blender followed by rubbing it with your fingers to get coarse crumbs.  It was a mistake to add the raisins before the butter—next time the raisins will go after the butter, but before the wet ingredients.

Beat the wet ingredients together:

1 large egg
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until everything is a sticky mess. It wasn’t quite as sticky this time as last time.

Dump the dough onto the counter and pat it into a circle about ½-inch thick.  Cut into 8 wedges (vaguely triangular wet blobs will do) and use a pastry scraper to transfer to a baking sheet that is covered with baking parchment.

Bake for 20–25 minutes.

The scones are tasty, fresh from the oven.  They looked nice also.

Scones cooling on the rack.

The display at the beginning of the bread-and-tea Zoom meeting.

2020 October 7

Juxtaposed headlines

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 19:56
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There were two adjacent headlines on the home page today that pretty much sums up the 2020 economy and what government has done recently:

“Extreme poverty ‘set for first rise since 1998′” juxtaposed with “Billionaire fortunes hit record high during pandemic”

I have no further comment.

2020 October 5

First Zoom lab

Filed under: Circuits course,Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:25
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I had my first remote lab session today, using Zoom to supervise pairs of students working from home.  It went more smoothly than I expected, but not perfectly.

I had pre-assigned lab partners to groups using a CSV file, following the instructions at  A couple minutes into the lab time, when most of the students had shown up, I opened the breakout rooms, and everyone managed to get into their rooms.

Except those students who showed up late—they had to be manually assigned to their rooms, and of course they did not remember what group number they were in, so I had look for them in my list of email addresses (which was not easy, because the name they were showing on the screen might have no more than 1 letter in common with their email address).  I wish that Zoom could remember the pre-assignment even for those who are late!

Once I finally got everyone into their breakout rooms, I started going from room to room, looking over the shoulders of the students and asking if they had any questions.  On the second or third room, the students couldn’t get screen sharing to work (though others had in other rooms).  I tried setting all the screen sharing options, but nothing seemed to work.

I left that group to answer a question in another room, which also turned out to be about screen sharing, but reactivating it for them worked!  So I went back to the room that first had trouble, and reactivated screen sharing for them, and this time it worked.

After that I mostly answered questions for a group until some other group asked for help, then I moved over and answered questions there.  It was very similar to the experience I had with the live labs, except that it was hard to see their breadboards.  Most of the questions were about setting up Waveforms on the Analog Discovery 2 to collect the data or about gnuplot scripts to plot and model the data.

A couple of times students had to quit Zoom and re-enter, and I had to reassign them to their breakout rooms.  It turns out that this can be done while in a breakout room, so I did not have to go back to the main room. Again, I wish Zoom could remember their assignments!

There were a few times when I was free to float between breakout rooms, and I think I managed to touch base with each group at least once, but I’m not 100% sure of that.

I was pretty burned out after 2 hours of being constantly “on”, but that is not so different from a usual lab session.  I did not, however, feel like recording another video tonight.

2020 October 2

Sourdough Whole-Wheat and Rye Bread

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:45
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I decided to make a whole-wheat sourdough bread this week, for bread-and-tea on Friday.  I’m basing it loosely on the Norwegian Whole-wheat Bread and the Bread-machine bread without the bread machine, but starting with a sourdough starter.  The sourdough starter had a fair amount of rye flour in it, from last week’s Rye bread rolls again.


  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon unfiltered, raw cider vinegar

Let this age for a day (covered with a cloth).  I added the vinegar mainly because my recent sourdoughs have not been sour enough for my taste, and I wanted to re-inoculate with a vinegar-forming bacterium.

Set aside one cup in the refrigerator for future sourdough baking. To what is left add

  • 1 cup warm milk (100°F–115°F)  (if the sponge had not been very active, then I would have added a teaspoon of yeast to the milk)
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1–2 Tablespoons molasses (there was a little blackstrap molasses in the bottom of the bottle, but it wouldn’t budge, so I used the warm milk to dissolve it)

Knead until smooth on a well-floured board, incorporating maybe ¼ cup more rye flour to get an elastic, smooth dough.

Let rise in an oiled  bowl for 24 hours, punching down whenever it doubles in bulk. ( I ended up punching down once, in the evening before letting the dough rise again overnight.)

Shape the dough into an oval loaf and place on baking parchment.  Let the dough rise until doubled again (another 4 hours).


  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon cornstarch

in microwave and cool to room temperature.  Preheat oven to 400°F.

Brush cornstarch mixture onto loaf, slash the top of the loaf, and bake at 400°F for about 55 minutes.  Remove the parchment about half way through the baking, so that the bottom crust is directly on the terra-cotta tiles.

The bread  spread a bit more in the rising than I expected, so a slightly stiffer dough may be better, but still came out looking good.

The dough after shaping had a texture of bubbles on the surface, because I tried not to knead the dough during the shaping.

I slashed deeper than usual this time, to get a more pronounced effect. The shininess is from brushing on the cornstarch mixture before slashing.

I may have slashed a bit too deep, but the loaf still looks good.


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