Gas station without pumps

2020 May 20

Traffic deaths: up or down?

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:02
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I saw two NPR headlines today:

As States Locked Down In March, Motor Vehicle Fatality Rate Spiked By 14%


Organ Transplants Down As Stay-At-Home Rules Reduce Fatal Traffic Collisions

So which is it? Are fatalities up or down?

Closer reading reveals that the crucial word here is “rate”—both the number of fatalities and the amount of driving are down, but the ratio of them (fatalities per million miles driven) is up, because idiots are driving faster on nearly empty roads.

The first article says “for every 100 million miles driven in March [2020] there were 1.22 deaths on the road, compared to 1.07 in March 2019.”  The article also says “The total number of motor-vehicle-related deaths dropped by 8% in March of this year compared to March 2019, but the number of miles driven dropped by over 18%, due to myriad COVID-19 related impacts.”

The impact on organ transplants has been bigger than the 8% drop in traffic fatalities—from the second article: “From March 8 to April 11, the number of organ donors who died in traffic collisions was down 23% nationwide compared with the same period last year, while donors who died in all other types of accidents were down 21%, according to data from UNOS.”

The fatalities were down 8%, but the organ donations resulting from those fatalities were down 23%—something other than the reduction in crashes is at play.  The article also mentions that other major sources of donated organs are down: “At Kaiser Permanente medical centers in Northern California, where 4.4 million patients get care, weekly hospital admissions for heart attacks have dropped almost 50% since the region’s first COVID-19 death was reported in early March.  Strokes and heart attacks are the second and third most common sources of organ donations, accounting for 27% and 20% of organs, respectively.”

Organ transplants were way down because it takes a lot of hospital resources to maintain a brain-dead body to keep the organs alive—”Earlier in the pandemic, as medical centers braced for a wave of COVID-19 patients, they wanted to free up as many ventilators as possible. In addition to donors needing to die on ventilators to keep their organs viable, doctors often keep them on ventilators for two or three days while transplant teams and recipients are lined up. Then the recipients need to be on ventilators during surgery.”

So the combination of fewer donor deaths in hospital, fewer hospitals willing to dedicate ventilators to organ transplant donors, deferral of elective surgery, fear that donor organs may be infected with SARS-CoV-2, and general reluctance to have immunosuppressed transplant patients exposed to SARS-CoV-2 in hospitals has resulted in massive decreases in transplants: “Transplant surgeries across the country plummeted 52% from March 8 to April 11, according to UNOS data.”  (I think that they mean that the March 8–April 11 period is 52% lower than the corresponding period last year, though that is not the literal meaning of their sentence.)

My main takeaways from this pair of articles:

  • traffic dropped (though not as much as I had thought)
  • traffic fatalities dropped (though not as much as traffic did)
  • the organ transplant market was massively disrupted—way more than the drop in donor deaths would have suggested.

2020 May 19

Rye bread rolls

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 23:50
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I decided that this week’s bread would be a rye bread, so I looked through Bernard Clayton’s The Breads of France and Joe Ortiz’s The Village Baker, but I didn’t find a recipe that I wanted to follow exactly.  So I’m making up my own, based on a combination of recipes.  I decided to do the recipe for La Tourte de Seigle in The Breads of France with a 3-day starter, but using some yogurt in the starter (sort of like the goat’s milk in the Jewish Rye recipe from The Village Baker).  I’ll also add raisins and shape the dough into rolls like Les Benoîtons from The Breads of France.


½ cup warm water (105°–115°F)
¼ cup yogurt
1 teaspoon yeast
pinch salt
1 cup rye flour

Mix together in bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 1–3 days.


all the starter (I’ll save a bit for a sourdough starter for next week)
1½ cup warm water (105°–115°F)
2 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1½ cup bread flour (original recipe has all-purpose flour, but I think the extra gluten will help)
3 cups rye flour
1½ cup raisins

Stir down the starter, blend in water, yeast and salt. Let sit for 3–4 minutes so yeast can dissolve.

Stir in bread flour.  Add rye flour a cup at a time until dough forms a mass.  Stir with wooden spoon or silicone scraper until dough has lost most of its stickiness and can be turned from the bowl onto floured surface.

Knead slowly until dough soft and elastic (about 6 minutes).  May need to start work with pastry scraper initially, as dough starts out very sticky.  Dust occasionally with bread flour to control stickiness. Put in greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 40–60 minutes.

Soak raisins for 10 minutes, then pat dry.

Punch down and flatten dough and spread raisins on top. Fold dough and knead until raisins well distributed.

Divide dough into 2-oz pieces and roll into balls.  Place on baking parchment on baking sheets, cover, and let rise until double in size (about one hour).


1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

Remove cover, brush each roll with glaze, and cut X into top of each roll. Bake in preheated 400°F oven for 30–35 minutes, turning baking sheet at 15 minutes for more uniform baking.  Done when browned on the bottom and feel solid when pinched.

Cool on wire rack.

Update 2020 May 22: The rye sour smelled rather nasty (as might be expected for dairy products souring for 3 days), but the rolls came out well.  The dough is very sticky, so shaping the rolls required some practice and a lot of flour on the hands.  The recipe makes about 30 rolls.

Rye rolls cooling on the wire rack.

Rye rolls on a plate, with a pot of green tea for the bread-and-tea event.


2020 May 14


Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 17:45
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For tomorrow’s bread-and-tea I’m finally going to do the brioche that I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks.  I’ll have to start it today, as one of the risings will be overnight in the refrigerator.

The recipe is a half the recipe from Lindsey Remolif Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts.

1½ teaspoon yeast
⅛ cup warm water
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
¾ cup unsalted butter

Sprinkle yeast over the warm water in a small bowl and set aside for 10 minutes. Let eggs warm to room temperature.

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl.  Stir 3–4 tablespoons of flour mixture into bubbly yeast mixture to form a smooth, light batter.  Let it rise until double.

Make a well in the flour mixture and break in the eggs.  Scrape in the yeast and beat until smooth. Slice cold butter into long strips (¼ thickness of stick of butter) and distribute on top of dough, without working it in. Cover and let rise until tripled in volume (about 90 minutes).

Punch down the dough, and mix using dough hook to beat in the butter.  This dough will be soft and sticky—if you have to knead by hand, pick the dough up and slap it down on the board, rather than trying the usual hand kneading of bread dough.  When properly kneaded the dough should go from being stringy and sticky to “very smooth, satiny, and light”.

Put it in a bowl, cover it, and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator.

Shape the dough directly from the refrigerator without letting it warm.  I’ll be using a brioche pan (yes, we have some rather specialized tools in our kitchen), so I’ll just shape the dough into a ball, put it in the buttered pan, and let it rise until doubled.  It should not spring back when pressed gently.

I may or may not brush the top with eggs and milk—that makes for a brown crust which can be quite attractive.

Bake at 375°F for 35–45 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

Update 2020 May 15:  The final rising of the refrigerated dough took longer than I expected at room temperature.  I ended up warming the oven to 100°F, turning it off, and putting the brioche pan in the oven to speed up the final rise.  I did brush the top with an egg-and-milk mixture (it takes much less than an egg, so I made a mini-omelet of the leftover).  Here is a picture of the final brioche:

I remembered to make a small ball of dough to stack on top of the main ball of dough, to get the classic brioche shape.  The quality of the photo is low, because I took it with my phone instead of getting out a proper camera.

2020 May 11

I miss the Tuesday NY Times

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:10
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For years, my wife and I have picked up the Tuesday New York Times and read the whole thing each week.  She appreciates the art coverage and I particularly like the Science Times section. If the NY Times had a Tuesday-only subscription, I would have bought it years ago. For the past few months, we have not been able to get it—the bookshop stopped carrying newspapers during shelter-in-place and the other venues that previously had it (like CVS) either stopped carrying it or were sold out.

I miss the Science Times, even Jane Brody’s column “I’m doing it right—you’re doing it wrong” and the fitness column “Small samples”.  (Those aren’t their official names, but the the names my wife gave them—I think Jane Brody’s column has some generic, non-mnemonic name like “Personal Health” and the fitness column something equally boring like “Phys Ed”.) I’ve not been reading the NY Times online—the on-screen experience is not as good, and the NY Times does not have a friendly interface for people who just want to drop in to read an article or two. Part of the attraction of the newspaper was that it gave me something to read that was not on a screen, as I’ve been spending too much time on my computer for the last decade.

I’m hoping that now that bookstores in California are being allowed to do curbside service that we’ll be able to start getting the NY Times on Tuesdays again.

I’ll call again and ask.


2020 May 9

Pleasant surprise for bread and tea

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 23:01
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At yesterday’s online bread-and-tea, I had a pleasant surprise—several people showed up who I had not seen at bread-and-tea for years: former students and staff who haven’t come for years.  It was nice to catch up with them on what they were now doing (one recently got tenure, another has a daughter in college—I remember recommending a kindergarten class for her!).

The alumni were also useful—giving career advice and some networking connections to the three seniors who were they trying to decide on whether to go to grad school or try immediately for a job (one senior was accepted into a PhD program at UC Merced, another into an MS program at UCSC, and the third looking for an industry job).

The alumni were also useful to each other (pointing out some of the free services UCSC offers to alumni, even without joining the alumni association).

In any case, it was good to see them all again, even if the connection was only on-screen and not in person.

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