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What is it about Alexander that continues to fascinate us? Wasn’t he just another ruthless conquerer? Or did he, in a mere ten years, leave the Mediterranean more civilized than he found it, setting the stage for the classical age, and changing the course of Western culture, by humbling the Persians and elevating the Greeks?

Historical docudramas are not usually of this quality. The drama is excellent. The mysterious English actor Buck Braithwaite was born to play the Alexander role. The scholars are very good.

This is a six-part series that quickly became very popular on Netflix. You can watch the trailer here.

Tom Swift

The end sheets of the 1954 editions

Starting in 1910, books in the Tom Swift series (written for teenagers) have sold more than 30 million copies, according to the Wikipedia article. And yet I don’t recall ever having seen a Tom Swift book in a (used) bookstore until yesterday. My brother had six or eight of the 1954 series, so when I saw the blue denim cover in the store I recognized it immediately as a Tom Swift book.

I also had no idea that the Tom Swift series of books continued until 2019. I can see on eBay that the older books are highly collectible. They’re inexpensive because there are so many copies extant. I’m not sentimental enough about the Tom Swift books to collect them. I read them, I think, when I was a little too young (eleven or twelve), and they didn’t make a great impression on me. Still, they’re classic nerd fiction, and, as the Wikipedia article points out, the books inspired several generations of engineers and scientists.

⬆︎ There actually was never an author named Victor Appleton. That was a pseudonym that the publisher used for multiple authors, some of whom were women. According to Wikipedia, the 1954 series were written by Harriet Adams, who was the daughter of Edward Stratemeyer, who originally conceived the Tom Swift series starting in 1910.

⬇︎ A Danish word we all should know

I love dictionaries, and I always check out dictionaries when shopping through used books. This Danish dictionary, because of its beautiful bright red cover, almost jumped off the shelf into my hands. I know exactly one word of Danish — hygge.

If you hear a Danish person say this word, it will sound like “hooga,” or “hugga.” Thus I have no idea why it is spelled with a “y.” The Danish word hygge is surely related to our English word hug. Webster’s gives the source of the English hug as an Old Norse word, hugga, meaning “soothe.” The Oxford English Dictionary, on the other hand, is wishy-washy. It says that hug appeared in English in the 16th Century but that the origin is unknown. The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (Oxford, 1966) seems to agree with Webster’s. It says that hug is probably of Scandinavian origin and also mentions an Old English relative, hyge, meaning mind, heart, or mood.

The OED’s caution notwithstanding, it seems pretty obvious that hygge and hug are related — the sound, as well as the meaning, as well as the geography. But maybe the OED couldn’t find a source to prove it. I don’t know. I hope they’re still arguing about it at Oxford.

I can testify that the Danish are very serious about the concept of hygge. I got to know a lot of Danes because I helped install a Danish publishing system at the San Francisco Chronicle. I’ve also made a couple of trips to Aarhus. Once, in a training session on the Danish publishing system, the Danish instructor spent at least twenty minutes talking about hygge. I suspect that part of his motivation was to explain to workaholic Americans why holidays and private time are so sacred to Danes, especially in winter. Newspaper people are accustomed to working on Christmas day, because daily newspapers don’t take a day off. But Danes on Christmas day, the instructor said, “are home having hygge.” The word conveys physical comfort, as in warmth; and it also conveys emotional comfort, as in family and friends, conviviality, food and drink.

I would assume, since this dictionary was printed in Denmark (in 2002, first edition 1995), that its purpose was to serve as reference for native speakers of Danish who work with English. The sound of Danish is completely incomprehensible to me, but as I browse through the dictionary, I see can see from written Danish that Danish and English have many more cognates than I would have guessed. And though my ear can’t hear the connection, in writing the relationship between German and Danish is pretty obvious.

⬇︎ The Black Dwarf

One of the things that keeps me interested in Sir Walter Scott is the gothic atmosphere. The Black Dwarf is rich with gothic atmosphere — moors and bogs in the dark of night, spectres by moonlight that may or may not be real. Still, this novel has a simple and well worn plot. It’s one of the early Waverley novels, 1817.

My next adventure with Sir Walter Scott is Castle Dangerous, 1831, which was the last of the Waverley novels.

Potatoes to the rescue

Barley biscuit, with potato in the dough

My quest for bread that is both truly good and truly healthy probably will go on for the rest of my life. Bread is probably my favorite food. I could live on San Francisco sourdough bread, Havarti cheese, wine, and strawberry preserves. Though I probably wouldn’t live for long.

A combination of barley flour and whole wheat flour (about four parts barley to one part wheat) makes a tasty biscuit or quick bread. Barley has a wonderful taste. But the bread is dry, with a mealy texture. Potatoes both moisten the bread and improve the texture.

Lately I’ve been cooking potatoes in advance and letting them chill before I use them. The chilling both improves the potato’s glycemic index and makes the potato a better food for the microbiome. Just mash the cooked potato into the bread dough.

⬆︎ Right side up on potassium

The daily requirement for potassium is shockingly high. Most people, it seems, are deficient in potassium. In fact, many people probably get more daily sodium than potassium. That would be “upside down on potassium,” which is not at all a healthy thing.

Low-sodium V8 juice is nice way to get some potassium insurance. It’s supplemented with potassium chloride, though the vegetable juices are naturally high in potassium. Per cup, it has 850mg of potassium, 140mg of sodium, and 45 calories. That’s a good deal, nutritionally. I also find that V8 juice helps me cut down on wine consumption, because V8 juice goes very nicely with meals.

Fried oysters — from the Chesapeake Bay

⬆︎ Trucked in and fried

Once or twice a year, I get an irresistible craving for fried oysters. Here in the American South, at least within easy trucking distance from the coast, the art of frying seafood is extremely well understood. Any town of any size will have a fried fish house.

I’m in North Carolina. North Carolina does produce some oysters, but most of our oysters here come from the Chesapeake Bay. Last year, the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and Maryland had the biggest oyster harvest in 35 years:

“The Chesapeake oyster is still in the very early stages of a comeback after a tremendous amount of investment in reducing pollution to the Bay, years of diligent fishery management, and significant successful state and federal investment in oyster restoration. To keep oyster numbers growing, harvest increases must continue to be done slowly, incrementally, and cautiously, as VMRC staff recommends.”

I never appreciated just how vast the Chesapeake Bay is, and how much coastline it has, until I flew over the full length of it, north to south, on a flight from New York to Greensboro. Such flights normally would take a more westerly course over land. But on that particular day, a line of inland thunderstorms pushed air traffic east. It’s good to hear that the Chesapeake Bay — a classic commons — is making a comeback after years of abuse. We understand very well now that a commons must be regulated, or it will be abused and depleted.

Daffodil shoots

⬆︎ February. What a relief.

Everybody I know, no matter where they live, said that January was miserable. Now that February is here, things are looking up. The daffodils should be blooming here in a couple of weeks.

⬆︎ Asimov’s robot novels

The first of Isaac Asimov’s robot novels, The Caves of Steel, was first published in book form in 1954. I had wanted to read it as escape fiction, but I’m afraid it must now be read as historical fiction. The plot is so-so, and the anticipation of the future misses the mark. It’s really just a murder mystery set in the future. But the writing is good.

I bought both The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun (which is the second robot novel) in a hardback book club edition that I think was published around 1961.

⬆︎ The extended editions

I’m finding that I like the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings films better than the theater versions. The scenes that were cut from the theater versions clearly were cut to reduce the run time, not because the scenes that were cut were inferior. The restored scenes include a lot of beautiful dialogue straight from Tolkien and a lot of excellent character development.

The extended versions can be streamed from HBO Max.

From a neighbor’s game camera

⬆︎ There are now two white deer in these woods

The oldest white deer in the woods here is at least eight years old, because it was eight years ago that I first got a photograph of her. There have been rumors of a second white deer for quite some time. But only a week or so ago did a neighbor get proof of it on a game camera. There are two white deer in the same frame. One is smaller and may be a yearling.

White Girl, in my driveway, three days ago, shot from an upstairs window. It was odd, but just before White Girl was in the driveway, a red fox was standing in the same spot, then scampered into the woods. I asked a neighbor, who has lots of game cameras and who has given names to a lot of the wild critters, whether the deer and the fox are friends. “I think they just use the same trails,” he said.

War worry in Europe

Foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, Nov. 29, 2023. Source: U.S. Department of State via Wikimedia Commons.

One of my sources of information is Apple News, which includes subscriptions to a good many newspapers that are otherwise behind paywalls. During the past few weeks, I have been seeing a lot of stories with scary headlines in the Times of London in which military leaders express their worry about the risk of war with Russia and their concern that NATO is dangerously unprepared. I’ve seen very little on this subject in American newspapers. What should we make of this?

An example of one of these scary headlines was today: “Nato should ‘prepare for Russian missile strikes in Europe.'” The article is a long interview with Lieutenant General Alexander Sollfrank, who is commander of NATO’s military logistics center in southwest Germany.

For an overview of this war worry that is not behind a paywall, I recommend this piece in the Guardian from January 26: “Why are European defence leaders talking about war?” The Guardian brings up one of my concerns: “Planning for warfare, a remote contingency, is what militaries do and there is always pressure from generals and defence ministries to spend more.”

Plus I’m always concerned that the Times of London may have agendas and a point of view that would not align well with my own. But there also are some obvious points of real concern:

“A wave of anxiety has gripped European defence ministers and armed forces as politicians and military leaders believe that Nato-sceptic Donald Trump could be elected as the next president of the US — and that Russia may not be forced out or defeated in Ukraine. This febrile mood has prompted growing warnings that Europe could find itself involved in a war in Russia, even though at present Russia is embroiled in Ukraine.”

I don’t know what to make of this. But I do think it’s something that needs to be on our radar screens. Americans are distracted, and the American media can’t be counted on to understand what’s important and what’s not.

Here are a few more links:

CBS News: U.K. army chief says citizens should be ready to fight in possible land war.

NATO: Setting the record straight. Why is Sweden telling its citizens to prepare for war?

The Hill: NATO admiral warns of potential all-out war with Russia.

The American media are reporting, however, on how happy Russia is about Western division over military aid to Ukraine and Israel-Gaza issues: Russia projects confidence as it pursues alliances to undermine West.

Update 1:

Today (January 29), the Times of London has another one of these scary headlines: “Zelensky warns Germany it risks being sucked into World War Three.” Zelensky made this warning on a German talk show, in which he also asked Germany to give him long-range Taurus missiles. Zelensky also said, according to the Times, that “Putin could turn his attention to Germany, Poland or the Baltic states after Ukraine.”

This coordinated talk about World War III in Europe has all the marks of a coordinated media campaign. That does not necessarily mean that someone is trying to deceive us. But what worries me personally is that there are several new hot spots right now (Jordan, Yemen, and the Red Sea, in addition to Gaza), and those (such as Iran and Russia) who think they can profit from chaos see new opportunities. Right-wingers in the U.S. Congress are begging for some kind of retaliation against Iran.

Update 2:

Today (Jan. 30), the New York Times is writing about this: “For Europe and NATO, a Russian Invasion Is No Longer Unthinkable: Amid crumbling U.S. support for Ukraine and Donald Trump’s rising candidacy, European nations and NATO are making plans to take on Russia by themselves.”

UFOs, Pooh, and Webster’s

Encounters: Experiences With Nonhuman Intelligences. D.W. Pasulka, St. Martin’s, 2023. 248 pages.

This book didn’t do it for me. Because I’m a UFO witness (seeing is believing!), I understand UFOs as material phenomena that should be investigated by the material sciences. D.W. Pasulka, who is a religion professor, sees UFOs as the focus of some kind of new religion. That’s an interesting angle, especially for those who think there is nothing real about UFOs. To many of us, though, it’s a kind of insult.

I’ve written here previously about the UFO I saw, so there’s no need to go into that now. I certainly don’t deny that there is something religionlike about UFOs for those who have never seen one and to whom their existence is a matter of faith. And it is certainly true that, if you’ve ever had a good look at a UFO (as opposed to mere lights in the sky), then that changes you forever, in the same way that Pasulka describes quite well, using the testimony of, say, astronauts who have seen the earth as a globe silently suspended in a vast but starry emptiness. Some of those astronauts have seen things out there that oughtn’t to be out there.

We UFO Truthers are still waiting for the truth. It would be ever so nice if it happened in my lifetime. The question, to me, isn’t whether UFOs exist. It’s who they are, where they come from, why they’re here, and what they can tell us about the universe beyond our solar system.

It’s very strange that I never read Winnie the Pooh as a child. School libraries certainly had copies of it. My guess is that I was a snob reader as a boy and that I considered Winnie the Pooh as beneath my grade level. But every home library should have a copy of Winnie the Pooh. I bought this copy on eBay. It’s the 1961 reprint edition, with the same illustrations (by Ernest H. Shepard) as the 1926 first edition. My copy has a charming bookplate, inscribed in a child’s hand as belonging to a boy named Gabriel. On the title page is a note to Gabriel that shows that the book was a Christmas gift in 1971. The book has some stains and is a bit frazzled around the edges, as a Winnie the Pooh book ought to be.

Winnie the Pooh, by the way, has been in the public domain in the U.S. since 2022.

My second book rebinding job was a worn-out Webster’s dictionary. Eggheaded nerds like me don’t often make things with our hands. But it’s a rewarding (and useful) activity. I can’t rescue cats, because Lily would never tolerate another cat in her house. But I can rescue old books.

It would have been ever so nice, when I built my house 15 years ago, if I had been able to afford a proper chimney. But a brick chimney on a house that is more than 30 feet tall would have cost a fortune. Not having a chimney foreclosed on the possibility of ever having wood heat (though I do have a propane fireplace that vents to the outside). Heating with wood would be very bad for air quality if everybody did it. And not everybody lives down in the woods as I do. But I have enough hardwood trees on my land to heat with wood without ever having to sacrifice a live tree. Elderly trees regularly fall over, especially in storms. Plus, my neighbors all own more woodland than I do. A nice thing about rural culture here is that downed trees are still seen as a kind of commons. If a tree falls, someone can always be found who needs the firewood. If a tree falls on a public road (as often happens), someone will quickly get it out of the way and turn it into firewood.

As a liberal prepper, one of the things I’m required to worry about is what I would do if the electric grid ever went down. Except for my propane fireplace, my heat sources rely on electricity. In a place this rural and dense with forests, power failures are common, though I’ve never had one here that lasted more than a day. Plus the propane fireplace does not have the capacity to heat the whole house in really cold weather. For a long time I had wanted a good wood stove to stash in the basement. If it was ever needed, it would be possible to make a makeshift but safe chimney out of metal pipe. I finally got my wood stove, and it’s a beauty, several years old but never used. It’s enormous, made from heavy steel plate (with a cast iron door). The stove was locally made by a welder who either died or went out of business before all the stoves he’d made had been sold. A neighbor of mine bought four of the surplus stoves at a steep discount, and I was able to get one of them. Its flat top is plenty big enough to cook on.

Wood stoves would not be practical in lots of places. But here in the woods, where everybody has chain saws and hydraulic wood splitters, wood stoves are eminently practical — as long as you have a chimney.

A big win for Trump?? Who says?

Trump in New Hampshire. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Do the American political media actually believe their own delusional spin — that Trump is so powerful that he may actually get back into the White House? Or is it, as not a few people on the left (including me) see it, that the media have a strong — and dangerously perverse — self-interest in keeping the Trump era going, because Trump has been a bonanza in delivering clicks and eyeballs to an industry desperate for clicks and eyeballs?

Trump gains speed with win over Haley,” writes the Washington Post this morning. Trump “crushed” Haley’s momentum, the Post writes. That’s the theme that dominates the New York Times’ New Hampshire coverage as well.

I am increasingly worried about what is happening at the Washington Post. At the Post, it seems that Trump was what made the difference between profit and loss. The “Trump bump” made a lot of money for the Post. But the Post lost 20 percent of its subscribers after Trump left office and may now be losing money. Pretty much all the mainstream media including the New York Times rode the Trump bump.

The Washington Post got a new publisher on January 3. That’s Sir William Lewis, who is British and who comes to the Post from the Murdoch media empire. The Post’s owner, Jeff Bezos, of course doesn’t want to lose money. How can reasonable people not suspect that Bezos thinks that the Murdochification of the Washington Post is the way to make money?

Who am I do disagree with the Washington Post’s elite political team? No one; I’m just an obscure blogger and veteran of the newspaper business whose personal politics don’t accord very well with the media elite. But at least none of my salary or job security (I’m retired) ever came from the Trump bump.

I see the present political situation very differently. The media elite see New Hampshire as a huge win for Trump and a dead end for Nikki Haley. Not I. No one, it seems, expected Haley to get 44 percent vs. Trump’s 55. That means that surprisingly close to half of the Republicans who voted in the New Hampshire primary do not support Trump. That seems to have spooked Trump, and Marjorie Taylor Greene said that Haley’s numbers are “fake“.

The Republican Party is headed for a civil war that can only be vicious. It is impossible to imagine a united Republican Party in November. They will turn their guns on each other, and no matter what Republican is on the ballot in November, half of Republican voters will be motivated to stay home.

As always, the stories about Trump “crushing” his opposition conveniently forget that Trump is going to be crushed by the law — convicted by the criminal courts and financially ruined by the civil courts. And yes, that’s going to happen before the Republican National Convention, which starts on July 15. It is all too likely that the internal warfare that we’ll see at that convention will be a televised riot like nothing the world has ever seen before. The mainstream media are still afraid to touch the growing evidence that Trump’s cognitive impairments are getting worse. The Biden campaign, though, is posting videos drawing attention to Trump’s slurring of words, confusing one person with another, and not understanding what’s what or who’s who or where is where. Trump is one big gaffe away from being caught on video with a gaffe so shocking that the mainstream media won’t be able to ignore it anymore. Even Fox News is acknowledging that Trump is “increasingly confused on the campaign trail.” Trump’s handlers are in a bind. They have to put him out there, if he’s to be seen as a real candidate, but the more they put him out there the more they risk the gaffe that will put an end to him.

It seems all too likely that, when the history of the presidential campaign of 2024 is written, that history will be as much about media as about politics. The rightwing media will be all-lies and all-gaslighting all the time, as always. The mainstream media is compromised with conflicts of interest, addicted to Trump. And we are unprepared for the “tsunami of misinformation” that AI will pour into the media including social media.

The wages of neoliberalism

A Boeing 737 Max: Why isn’t there a mass movement to refuse to fly on them? Source: Wikimedia Commons.

This morning in the news, we learned that a front wheel fell off of a Boeing 757 as the jet was preparing to take off from Atlanta for Bogotá. The FAA is investigating. Also this morning in the news, we learned that the CEO of Alaska Airlines is angry after loose bolts were found on “many” of the airline’s Boeing 737 Max 9 jets.

Since photographs showed the the big hole in the fuselage after a door blew out of an Alaska Airlines jet (and the missing door was later found in someone’s backyard), and since the wheel that fell off the Boeing jet in Atlanta was seen rolling down a hill, it would be hard even for Fox News’ expertise in lying to gaslight us on such plain facts. But there’s still a lot of disinformation and propaganda to be milked out of such plain facts. The right-wing media have milked it to the max.

The problem with Boeing, the right-wing media say, is workforce diversity! If your blood pressure can take it, here’s an article from the Guardian, “Worried about airline safety? Blame diversity, say deranged rightwingers.” Elon Musk, of course, has endorsed and amplified that idea.

In the real world, the understanding of what happened at Boeing is very different. Boeing was once a company run by engineers. Brilliant design and careful manufacturing were the highest values. But Wall Street and rich stockholders see Boeing only as a money machine, and the theology of neoliberalism blessed a takeover. Keep in mind that, though ordinary Americans hold modest shares of stock, the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans own 89 percent of all American stocks. Once upon a time, McDonnell Douglas and Boeing were competitors. But in 1997, McDonnell Douglas took over Boeing and — knowingly and intentionally — made Boeing’s engineers subordinate to the money people.

The other factor in Boeing’s ruin was self-regulation, as a consequence of neoliberalism’s glorification of the market and demonization of government. Internal Boeing emails that came to light after two 737 Max crashes show that people inside of Boeing understood what was going on, but that they had no power to do anything about it. In one such email, an employee wrote: “This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.” Another employee wrote, describing the incompetence of regulators who were watching a Boeing presentation, that the regulators were “like dogs watching TV,” because they couldn’t understand the presentation. I can only imagine the bitterness and hostility that must now define Boeing’s company culture. And, of course, many engineers left and took their expertise with them.

Why is it always ordinary people, crammed into Boeing jets like cattle, who’re on board when these things happen? In 2022, there were 10,000 to 15,000 flights of private jets every day. According to this article, “Just 1% of air travelers account for 50% of global aviation emissions.” And yet how often do we read about billionaires’ jets going down? The private-jet industry claims that private jets are safer than commercial jets. If that’s true, it’s not hard to understand why.

Once again, I’d like to argue that Boeing is just one case of a great many in the global struggle that is behind almost every important thing happening in the world today. It’s the super-rich against the rest of us. Ninety percent of us are nothing more than just another natural resource to be exploited, lied to, and kept divided so that the 90 percent can’t organize the power to challenge the 10 percent. One of the things that blows my mind is that they’ve figured out how to make even their disinformation profitable. Fox News has net income of about $1.25 billion a year. The propaganda is so effective that society’s worst losers can be passionately and angrily convinced that what’s good for billionaires and dictators is good for them.

Minority rule can’t be easy, nor can it be stable. This is the overarching political struggle of our time — taking back wealth and power from a tiny minority who already own almost everything but who want everything, including unchallengeable power.

Tomato pudding

I rarely make tomato pudding. But, when I do, I wonder why I don’t make it more often. It’s a comfort food.

Irma Rombauer’s recipe from the 1943 The Joy of Cooking is very basic. It’s canned tomatoes, bread crumbs tossed in melted butter, and brown sugar. The pudding goes into the oven for 25 minutes, tightly covered to keep it moist.

The pudding in the photo is dark, because I used dark bread and roasted tomatoes. The Joy of Cooking is a white-bread sort of cookbook, so its recipe calls for white bread crumbs.

I have never made bread pudding, but the tomato pudding made me think of what a fine winter comfort food bread pudding could be. Irma Rombauer offers multiple versions of bread pudding — bread pudding with meringue, caramel bread pudding, chocolate bread pudding, lemon bread pudding, pineapple bread pudding, bread pudding with spices and dates, apple bread pudding, and rhubarb bread pudding.

The bread pudding with spices and dates sounds pretty good. The recipe uses milk, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, pineapple juice, chopped dates, nut meats, egg, and day old bread. It’s comforting just to read the recipe.

Can this old book be saved?

The 1943 wartime edition of The Joy of Cooking, worn out.

It takes a lot to wear out a book, but I wore out my copy of The Joy of Cooking that I had bought back in the 1970s. Even when I bought it it wasn’t a young book. It’s the 1943 wartime edition, probably the most collectible of this cookbook’s many editions. I bought it in an antique shop. When it fell apart, I saved the pieces, tucked the book into a safe place in the back of a bookshelf, and ordered a new copy of the same 1943 edition on eBay.

Then some neighbors had a need for a recipe for homemade butterscotch. I suspected that The Joy of Cooking would have a recipe for making a butterscotch concoction from scratch, and it did. The neighbors were fascinated by the cookbook and its old-fashioned cook-from-scratch charm. I had been curious about bookbinding and book repair. But it was my wounded old cookbook that led me to watch a bunch of YouTube videos on bookbinding and then to order (from Amazon) what one needs to rebind books.

The material for rebinding a single book doesn’t cost that much — two dollars or less. But the materials can’t be ordered in one-book quantities, so the cost of getting started in bookbinding adds up. One needs boards for the covers, heavy paper for the spines and end sheets, fabric for the covers, “headband” material, the gauze-like material that reinforces the spines, lots of the right kind of glue, some brushes, a cutting board, a sharp cutting instrument, a “bone folder,” and, most expensive of all, a book press.

There are many good videos on rebinding book. I found this one particularly helpful. The job is mostly about measuring and cutting accurately and doing a good job of glueing without making a mess.

I’d now argue that every serious booklover, and in particular anyone interested in antique and collectible books, should rebind at least one book. That way one learns how books are put together. It’s an old guild craft that hasn’t changed that much since Gutenberg. The construction of most hardback books is actually pretty good, but there are some details that are found only in higher quality books, such as a well-made spine with an “Oxford hollow.” In rebinding a cookbook, I wanted to be sure that the rebound book would stay open and all the pages lie flat, as with the original binding. You’ll find information on what an “Oxford hollow” is in the video I linked to above, and the video explains why an Oxford hollow makes a more relaxed but just-as-strong binding. An Oxford hollow is easy to make, which makes me wonder why all books don’t have them.

The 1943 edition of The Joy of Cooking, I would say, is the most complete reference on standard American cooking ever published. People know what they are now, and the 1943 edition has gotten fairly expensive on eBay. You may remember a scene in “Julia” in which Julia Child meets Irma Rombauer in a publisher’s office. Rombauer is depicted as very dowdy, while Julia Child was sophisticated. The Joy of Cooking is a dowdy cookbook, but because it’s so complete, and because it was published in 1943, before Americans started subsisting on ultra-processed foods, you’ll find a scratch recipe for just about any American dish that you might want to make.

My next rebinding project will be a 1974 edition of a Webster’s dictionary that I wore out. As with the cookbook, I bought a new copy. But books that you’ve had for a long time and have worn out are like old friends. You’d almost think that there are tiny ghosts inside old books.

All done. That’s the book press on the left.

Those outer leaves of cabbage

A good head of cabbage is almost two separate vegetables. There are the dark green outer leaves that are difficult to shred for slaw. And there is the cabbage head after the outer leaves are removed. It’s easy to waste the outer leaves, but it’s a shame to waste that intense green.

A solution is to wash each of the outer leaves separately, then roll each leaf into the tightest cigar-shape possible and cut it into strips. The cabbage above is going to be sautéed for egg foo yung.

Lucky for me, I live in good cabbage country. Cabbage grows well in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Also lucky for me is that whoever buys produce for Lowe’s Foods, which has lots of stores in this area, knows what good cabbage is like. Whole Foods, however, almost always has sorry-looking cabbage — white and with no outer leaves. A proper head of cabbage should be loosely contained in a lot of intense green outer leaves, and the head itself should be as heavy and hard as a ball of marble. The green color fades into pale green as you get closer to the stalk, but cabbage should never be white inside (except for the stalk).