Married on the third day of December in our backyard, Canberra, Australia.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Niels Provos' Sourdough Experiments

It turns out that Niels Provos also makes/made sourdough bread. He made his own sourdough bread from scratch, including making the starter and experimenting with the parameters. Don't buy a sourdough starter pack if you are interested in making your own sourdough, follow his instructions to make your own. It might be best to wait until the weather warms up first, since bread likes constant warmth.

The reason I found his pages is that I wanted to clarify some of the instructions. Our last bread was a bit flat because I left it overnight before cooking and it had well and truly fallen by then. Once you add the yeast and salt the show has started and you have to cook it once it has risen (the second time).

We are making our third loaf today. To make it fit into a normal day we seperated and fed the baby sponge last night, and mixed in the yeast etc. this morning. Last time we did everything except the cooking on the first day, which is where we went wrong.

I wanted to clarify why you have to make it rise twice. You let it rise once, then you transfer it to the cooking container and let it rise again. The instructions I was working from don't make it clear whether you should knead the dough during that transfer, but there are plenty of guides on the Internet that make it clear you should deflate the bread after the first rising, as too much carbon dioxide is bad for the yeast. You should also oil the bread before the first rising so that it doesn't stick to the container, I'll try that next time.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Beach Pictures

We had a look around the rock pools, and found starfish, a crab, some sea grass and a man playing frisbee with his tackle hanging loose. We didn't take a picture of that last one.

When we first walked past Mr Tackle Happy, he was sitting on the beach looking suspiciously at my camera. I gave him my best "stay where you are camera thief or I'll take you down Aikido style" glance. We didn't realise he was wearing no undies until we had walked past and he resumed tossing his frisbee around.

Pelican Inn

The Muir area includes a forest and a beach. The forest has limited parking and as we drove towards the beach we saw signs stating that the forest parking was full (it was about 11am). There is a bus service, so if you get there too late you can take the bus to the forest.

Apart from the beach and the forest, there are a few attractions (see also) including the Pelican Inn. The Pelican Inn, as you would expect, has a pub and a few rooms available for people who would like to stay ($200-$300/night). We stopped there for lunch. The restaurant is very "English Pub" with a big fireplace, English menu and a waiter with an English accent. The smokey smell also makes it nice and homely. I had bangers and mash whilst Louise had fish and chips. The sauce was called ketchup and the mustard tasted American, but apart from that it was great.

If we ever stay at the Pelican Inn, room 7 looks like the best. It has direct access to the Snug (private bar for guests) and good views.

The Pelican Inn also had some nice cars in the car park.

Muir Beach Overlook Mystery

Today we visited Muir Beach. The Muir Beach Overlook overlooks Muir Beach. It is the home to a number of Base Ends, which were designed as observation posts where observers could report enemy vessels as they approached San Francisco. If base ends at multiple sites observed ships simultaneously the ship positions could be triangulated for bombardment by guns near the Golden Gate bridge.

The base ends are built into the hillside facing the ocean. On the back of the hillside we found a small room with a chimney, which might once have been a bunkroom or a kitchen. If you look carefully you can see a smiley face simulacra on the ground in the upper right.

Since the overlook is a point, you can see beach from the bunkroom side of the hill as well. I tried to take a photo straight through a break in the trees, but my camera would not take it. I pointed it up and to the left, and it took a photo there, I tried down and to the right, and it took a photo there, but not in the centre. That is a bit of a mystery. I guess it couldn't find anything to focus on when it was centered, or the batteries were a bit flat, or it just plain malfunctioned. Below you can see the shots I took pointing to the top left and bottom right.

Notice also the similarities between the angles of the photos on the web site and the photos I took today (before I saw that web site).

Friday, August 18, 2006

New Scrapbook Pages!

Louise has completed two new scrapbook pages. One of them features her QUT graduation photo, and the other is the driveway that we had built on our Adelaide house.

We saw a fire

On my ride home tonight traffic was backed up on Shoreline for about 1.5km. One of the apartments with the brown roofs [1] was on fire. The outside walls of the apartments are clad with wooden tiles. As I rode past there were flames climbing the outside of the chimney.

After I got home Louise and I walked back to have a look. There was plenty of smoke, and possibly the whole complex had been evacuated because there were a lot of people out in the street. At least 6 fire units turned up (more were arriving when we left) and 4 helicopters were up getting news footage. By then the chimney was just a skeleton, as you can see if you look carefully at the top photo.

[1] Roofs or Rooves?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Half Moon Bay

We went for a drive to half moon bay. It was a bit cold and foggy so we didn't see the beach. Instead, we had a look around town.

There are all of the usual tourist shops; trinkets, antiques, candles and soap, books. There are also an unusually large number of hotels on main street above the restaurants. Off the main street we found an interesting looking old jail (built 1911) and church.

Most of the beaches are state parks with entry fees. While we were looking for a beach that didn't have an entry fee, we found a place that you can hire horses and go for a ride on the beach. When we have visitors next, we intend to go there for a sunset beach ride.

There are some the shops on the highway, so we stopped and had a look on the way back home. One of them had iron statues of dinosaurs out the front, which we got photos with.

One of the shops had old ornate doors imported from Egypt. I can't find a reference, but a friend once told me that in some countries (inc. India) people spend a lot of money on their front doors. It is a kind of status symbol. Anyway, old ornate doors are salvaged when the house is torn down or renovated, and are often exported.

One of the shops also had 900 year old pots for sale.


Mmm, Pasta

Sunday, August 06, 2006


I thought I would follow up on some of the comments from previous articles.

Alamo Square:
Anonymous asked how much a "painted lady" townhouse is likely to cost, and if they are heritage listed. has four properties on Alamo Square listed in their historic search results, but does not specify which properties. The prices range from $399,000 for a 1 bedroom 1 bathroom to $3,395,000. has a Google Maps interface where you can zoom in and see sales details, revealing the following sale (which I think is one of the painted ladies):
818 Steiner St, San Francisco, 94117, CA sold for $1,620,000 on 2004-05-14. It was built in 1890, has 4 bedrooms and 5,250 square feet of living area.

The ladies are part of the Alamo Square Historic District, and their image features twice on the Alamo Square Neighbourhood Association Planning and Preservation page. Modifications apparently have to be approved by the SF Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board. They had quite a view during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Optus Bills:
The bill was an eBill, which is how it managed to reach us. I don't know if the California Victoria postmaster is getting our $0.00 paper copies though.

Ted Stevens:
The "Internet is a series of tubes" lecture by Ted Stevens, chairman of the senate commerce committee, has been circulating the Internets. Ted Stevens' lecture was used as a comedy skit on the Daily Show (video). There is a remix in case you missed the point of his original performance. Somebody should tell Teddy what the Internet is for. Just don't download 10 videos at a time or you will clog your tubes.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk:
Yes, off-sites are like team building exercises with beer.

Home Made Bread!

We've baked our first loaves of sour dough bread.

It took almost 24 hours. We had to seperate a baby sponge from the mother sponge, feed it and wait 6-8 hours while it soured up. Then combine the ingredients and knead them into a ball which rests for 6-8 hours. After that we put it in the bread tins and let it proof for 4-5 hours. Finally comes the cooking and the eating. That all adds up to 21 hours.

We seperated the baby sponge at about midday, made the ball at about 7, put it in the ceramic loaf "tins" at midnight and started cooking at 5am. We wouldn't have gotten up so early had the pager not gone off. I'm secondary on-call this week and something at work needed attention. We couldn't get back to sleep, so we cooked the bread.

The dough was rising and falling all night. It rose to fill the bowl whilst it rested, then it shrunk again when I put it in the tins, then it rose and filled those containers. The first loaf burnt a bit on top, and we didn't cook the second loaf for quite long enough, but they are both delicious. It's a shame we don't eat much bread :)

We still have the mother sponge, and will continue to make bread on the weekends. We'll see if we can make the schedule fit a normal day.