Sunday Preparations…

This is the last day before the new semester starts here at USC. I’ve been wandering around the house a bit slowly. One reason is probably the excellent dinner party last night, which involved a lot of cooking for a lot of Saturday. That went well, and people seemed to enjoy themselves a lot. Good reason for a slow day the day after. The other reason is that it is simply nice to enjoy the calm before the storm of the new semester begins in earnest… So slow wandering around the house doing various simple tasks seems about right.

sunday_bread_1At some point I decided to start looking for my materials for tomorrow’s class. I teach graduate level electromagnetism again this semester (part two of a two part course) and so it is a good time to start looking into old folders and so forth, trying to see what I’ll re-use, what I’ll re-do, and so forth. It seems that last Fall was the first time I did a complete scan of all my hand-written notes into pdfs to allow me to deliver them from my iPad, and so that’s good news right there. I can annotate right on top of those and add new pages if I want to… but it is nice to start with a base of good material to hand right at the starting gate.

While I’ve been looking through materials I’ve also been making bread. I’ll need some for the week, what with sandwiches and all that, and it is a also a pleasantly slow and endlessly rewarding thing to do. I decided to make a more moist final dough than I have in recent times. I think that this will give both a nicer crust and crumb. That blob in the bowl in the picture above left is the result of a very successful first rise. Most of bread making is waiting, and so it is perfect for when you are doing slightly mundane but time-consuming tasks like looking at old files of course notes.

sunday_bread_2I rolled everything out into 12 rolls and a good slicing sandwich loaf and put them to rise again and went back to tinkering with files (analogue and digital). The picture to the right shows the result of that second rise. The oven is being preheated and they are nearly ready to go in. Already the smell is great, even though right now it is just a yeasty-doughy smell.

I’ve been wondering whether to jump ship and abandon Jackson as the main text for the class (shock! horror! – Jackson is a staple of so many graduate courses in physics) and go with something new. There have been two texts of note (that I know of) in the last couple of years that have risen to challenge Jackson’s supremacy, the one by Anupam Garg (“Classical Electromagnetism in a Nutshell”, Princeton), and the one by Andrew Zangwill (“Modern Electrodynamics”, Cambridge). My feeling is that both these books (I’ve looked at Garg more than Zangwill [update: see later remarks]) do a good job of making the subject seem alive and modern. Jackson has a great deal of useful material, presented in a firmly sensible way that is hard to argue with, and it will always remain a classic, but sometimes I think it suffers a bit from feeling somewhat old. I like that, for example, there’s a nice treatment of the beam of a laser in Garg as an […] Click to continue reading this post

When Life Hands You Tomatoes…

… make chutney!


So the garden has been yielding a great deal in the tomato department, as you saw from earlier posts. There’s been quite the fig surplus too, but more on that later. Last night – late last night – I decided to work on another food item that allows me to use them up and save this glorious condensation of Summer for a later time. I decided to make a tomato chutney. Well, I’m making two. I wanted to take the yellower tomatoes to make one with a lighter colour and flavour, and I will (later tonight perhaps?) make another, darker one with red tomatoes (with a little pepper from the garden for warmth).

A chutney is simple. It’s a bit like a savoury jam but even easier. I halved the little yellow pear variety tomatoes, and chopped a yellow onion – about half as much in volume as I had tomato. (Some extra tomatoes showed up late – I found a few green […] Click to continue reading this post


TwentyWonder is tonight! Come along if you’re in the area. Some quotes from the site:

A mindblowing cultural mashup. One night only. Only in LA.

Art. Science. Music. Comedy. Food ‘n Drink. Weird Geeky Stuff. …and Roller Derby!

Feel the Love. All proceeds go to the Downs Syndrome Association of Los Angeles.

See you there?

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Red, Gold, and Green

red_gold_green_july_2013_2Happy 4th of July, those of you who are celebrating it. I should have brought you Red, White, and Blue, but those are not the colours prevailing in the garden right now. Also, I don’t know of any blue tomato varieties. There’s a bit of a bonanza of tomatoes right now, I am pleased to report. All that time spent composting is paying off again, perhaps. A small part of the harvest is in the photograph above, showing six of the varieties in the garden this year. (Click for a larger view.) I don’t recall all […] Click to continue reading this post

Lattice Experiments

... and out it came, just as I finished hand-whipping some cream for an accompaniment. Hurrah! Apologies in advance to people who clicked over here because from the title they were expecting a post on discrete approaches to quantum field theory such as lattice QCD. This is mostly about lattice cherry pie, which, you’ll perhaps admit, is at least as interesting. Best to use the ones that have a slight sour edge to the taste, in my opinion… not too overly sweet.

Yes, it is time for an Asymptotia visit to the kitchen. Sunday I had a little dinner gathering for five, which called for an afternoon of cooking. I took some pictures, but in the end the set is incomplete since I got distracted with the important business of helping serve everything nice and hot and on time. So the main focus will be the pie (shown at the top so you don’t have to wait – the photo makes it look at lot darker than it actually is. It is not burnt!), since that’s all I have a complete set for. The […] Click to continue reading this post

Baby Harvest

The many squash plants in the garden this season all started a rather cluttered rush of fruiting. Some of them stalled in their growth, and overall it seemed a good idea to remove these small ones and some others, generally thinning the plants a bit to allow them to focus their energy resources into fewer squashes. A bonus of this procedure… an early Summer squash banquet!


Earlier this week I made a very tasty bean stew with some beans harvested from last […] Click to continue reading this post


…of Mexico. It was an excellent evening again this year (November 30th, actually). This was the second one (the first was in 2010) and I think the idea is to try to make it an annual event. It is in that great space downtown, Vibiana, the former Cathedral of St. Vibiana (now de-frocked, I suppose).

Anyway, the fellow (photograph right) making something (whatever it was) using liquid nitrogen caught my scientist’s eye (I usually carry a couple with me when I go out). It reminded me of the ice-cream people used to make at various departmental parties in physics departments in my past. (Always seemed like a good idea for novelty, but I never ate any of the ice-cream. I think I’m a fan of making things like that the slow way, letting the flavours settle in…) I wondered what he was making, but did not wait to find out since I was not on my own and a crowd immediately formed around him.

What happened a short time later was a bit unexpected. I enjoyed listening […] Click to continue reading this post

Sweet Preparations

It’s Thanksgiving! If you’re in the USA, I hope you’re having a good one so far. It is time for Asymptotia to take a trip to the kitchen, this time to make a dessert contribution to a meal at some friends’ Thanksgiving dinner party. I was going to make an apple pie, like I did some years back for a Thanksgiving, but apparently one of the other guests is bringing one. So I went with another simple and reliable preparation, an upside down cake with something seasonal on it. I went to the farmer’s market at Barnsdall Park yesterday (I missed my usual, the Hollywood one, since it is on Sunday and I was in New York that day) and saw that they had pluquats (crosses between plums and apricots), and they were the prime candidates for the cakes (plural since I decided to do two). I made them earlier today.

It started with chopping up the fruit into thick slices and making the topping. This is made from a stick of butter (half a cup – I am using US measurements), melted in a skillet and then cooked for a few minutes on a low flame with 3/4 cup of sugar and some spices (nutmeg and cinnamon, ground – my addition). I put that at the bottom of the ten inch pan I had ready. (I did two copies of everything, by the way) Then I […] Click to continue reading this post

Late but Still Great

Here’s a rather pleasant surprise from just outside my front door.

This started out as a “volunteer” tomato plant. It just showed up in a patch of soil somewhere, and so I planted it in the front garden and left it, occasionally watering during a particularly dry spell…

Now it is very late in the Fall, and it is producing some tomatoes! It’s not a particularly interesting variety, but nice to see all the same, this late in the year. (And to taste…)

Because of the unusual warmth of the Fall, the main line of tomato plants in the vegetable garden (that were quite prolific during the Summer – see some […] Click to continue reading this post

Lotta Bottle

In collaboration with a friend of mine, I’ve been bottling things. This time, lemon products. Her lemon tree is prone to produce far too many lemons to know what to do with, so you have to be creative. I make marmalade, as you know from previous posts, and she likes to make limoncello, both of which call for a good number of lemons (the latter also calls for several days involving various stages). Here are results of bottling both sets of products… The marmalade is remarkably dark […] Click to continue reading this post

Edible Fractals, and the Snowflake

In celebration and anticipation of the unveiling of the Mosely Snowflake Sponge fractal on the USC campus later today, I’m reposting an old post about an edible fractal that I did back in February 2008. They say they will be serving fractal-themed food in the reception, and so I wonder if this is one of the foods that might feature? Don’t forget to come to the event! Recall that I (jokingly) speculated that when this fractal is completed the universe will end, as its purpose will have been served? Well, it seems that this has not come to pass, so… whew.

For other fractal-related posts, click here. You might also enjoy the lovely fractal-related film, Yaddda Yadda Yada, that won a prize in the competition last year.



romanesque cauliflower

A small Romanesque Cauliflower. (Click for larger view.)

Imagine my delight when I spotted this lovely piece of edible mathematics in the Hollywood Farmer’s Market this morning. The stall has several of them of many sizes (this was a very little one) and of several colours. Wonderful. If you don’t know what I mean when I talk about the mathematics, or use the term fractal, look it up. There are several things of note, among which are the wonderful spiral structures that you can see (Fibonacci spirals) all over, and which in various ways, encode the infinite sequence of numbers 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233…. (you get the next one by adding the previous two) called the Fibonacci sequence. Ratios of successive members of the sequence, (e.g., 5/8, 8/13, 144/233, etc) approximate what I’ve already mentioned in an earlier post is definitely my favourite number (if I […] Click to continue reading this post