Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Make fresh French baguette daily

I grew up in France and I can appreciate a good quality bread. There is nothing like the taste of fresh baked bread .

Years ago, after moving to a somewhat remote location on a hill, far from any decent bakery, I purchased a bread machine in order to make my own bread at home. It is a small Zojirushi model.

This machine makes bread reliably, but the quality of the bread is inferior to that found in many commercial bakeries.

Recently, I took it upon myself to try making French baguette instead. I am using the machine on the dough cycle to mix the dough. I then bake the baguette in my oven.
The dough can be kept easily for a week in the refrigerator. This allows me to get fresh French baguette at home every day.

The recipe is exceedingly simple, with only 4 ingredients.
  1. 170ml water . I measure it by weight, not volume, as 170g. I use room-temperature water from my reverse-osmosis water filter.
  2. 250g all-purpose flour . I have used inexpensive Conagra flour with plenty of success.
  3. 1 tablespoon instant dry yeast. This is approximately 9 to 11g by weight. I use SAF brand.
  4. 1 teaspoon salt. This is approximately 5 to 6g by weight. I use Morton kosher salt, which also conveniently works great as dishwasher salt in my Miele dishwasher's water softener.
Here are the very easy, can't fail, steps to make baguette.
  1. Measure the ingredients and put them into your bread machine's bread pan . In my Zojirushi, water goes first, then flour, salt and yeast.
  2. Make the dough using the machine's dough cycle. It takes 1h45 minutes in the Zojirushi.
  3. Separate the dough into two balls of approximately equal weight  - they will be about 210g each.
  4. Start preheating the oven to 260°C (500°F). I use the "convect bake" mode on my Thermador convection oven.
  5. While the oven is preheating, shape each ball of dough into a cylinder of a length of about 28cm (11") .
  6. Lay down the 2 baguettes on an oiled baking sheet or baguette pan. I use a Chicago metallic pan.
  7. Score the baguettes using a sharp knife or scoring tool. I use a lame from Weekend Bakery to make about 4 or 5 indentations.
  8. Once the oven has reached the desired temperature; bake the baguettes in the oven for 18 minutes. You may need to adjust the time depending on your oven, or if you are baking more than 2 baguettes at once.
That's it. The baguettes are ready to eat . You can let it cool down a few minutes, but don't let it sit too long.  It is meant to be eaten the same day.

You can obviously make this recipe without a bread machine. I have not tried kneading the dough by hand.

I have also used a Ninja Ultra blender to mix the ingredients.

The Ninja can mix the dough ingredients quickly using the food processor bowl and the dough blade. However, you will still need to let the dough sit afterwards for at least an hour before you can bake it, so you won't really save time. If you want to bake the baguette the same day, then the bread machine is more convenient, in my opinion. In addition, I haven't figured out the right amount of time to use the Ninja. When blending in "dough mode" for 6 to 7 minutes, the resulting dough was hot. I don't know how much shorter it should be run, I would still need to experiment. It might be as few as 3 minutes.

Where the Ninja comes in handy for me is to make larger quantities of dough for future use. Unless you have a much larger bread machine, you will be limited in how much dough you can prepare.

I have used the Ninja Ultra to make enough dough for 4 baguettes, by simply doubling the quantities of ingredients, and separating the dough into 4 balls. I believe the Ninja food processor bowl should be large enough to make dough for 6 baguettes, and possibly more, but I have only tried up to 4 at a time so far.

I use some Rubbermaid Premier airtight food containers to store the dough in the refrigerator. They work well to keep the dough fresh. Some have been known to freeze the dough, but I haven't tried.
When using refrigerated dough, I take it out of the refrigerator at the same time as I start preheating the oven. The baguettes always come out great. In fact, no matter how many I bake, they always get devoured right away. So I keep to baking one a day only as I'm watching my weight.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

HIV sex education 404 : some inconvenient truths, not always found in other sex-ed classes

These are some facts that every sexually active gay man should know, and my commentary on the implications of these facts.

HIV Status Unknown for Most “Negative” Men Online . From .
You can never know if someone claiming to be HIV-negative actually tested negative. Many have actually never been tested at all. Others had tested a long time ago and are actually positive and unaware of it. And some men who are aware of their positive status don't disclose their status because of stigma.

HIV test window periods . From San Francisco AIDS foundation
All types of HIV tests have a window period, which varies from 1 to 12 weeks . 3% of HIV infections still show up negative on the most common screening test, the antibody test, after 12 weeks.

This means even if you go get tested today, a negative result doesn't prove you are actually currently negative. It means you were negative as of 1 to 12 weeks ago with 97% confidence. The test can only confirm if you are currently positive, but cannot conclusively prove if you are currently negative.

You can know that you are currently negative based on your own recent sexual history in the last 1-12 weeks. But you can never know for sure about anybody else, even with recent test results, because you don't know their sexual history, only your own.

Thus, gay men who are insisting on meeting only other "HIV-negative" men are only fooling themselves, and are insisting on something that's impossible to prove.

Fast Facts : Acute HIV infection . From UCSF
The acute phase is the early phase in HIV infection. During that period, individuals are more highly infectious due to high HIV viral load. Estimates indicate that up to half of all HIV transmissions may step from acutely infected individuals who are highly infectious and unaware of their disease status.

Unfortunately, this early acute HIV infection phase often coincides with the window period of HIV antibody screening tests. During this period, one may receive a false negative result, but in fact may have been recently infected and be highly infectious to others.

Thus, the knowledge that a potential sex partner has received an HIV negative test in the past provides little comfort that this person is not actually HIV infected and highly infectious.

Swiss experts say individuals with undetectable viral load and no STI cannot transmit HIV during sex

The use of antiretroviral therapy to reduce HIV transmission . UK government.

HIV Transmission Risk Essentially 0 if Heterosexual Partner Has Undetectable Viral Load. 3rd International Workshop on HIV & Women

No-one with an undetectable viral load, gay or heterosexual, transmits HIV in first two years of PARTNER study. From AIDSMAP .

These various studies all point to the same finding ; namely that people who are infected with HIV, are on daily HIV antiretroviral medication long-term, and maintain an undetectable HIV viral load, are unable to transmit HIV to others. This remains true even if no other safe sex precautions are taken, such as the use of condoms. Of course, other STIs, if present, can still be transmitted, if condoms are not used.

HIV nPEP, non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis. From
This is a mouthful, but really important.
If you have had unprotected sex, or if you experienced a condom failure, with someone of unknown HIV status, or someone of confirmed HIV positive status and off-treatment, you can benefit from HIV post-exposure prophylaxis.
This is a 30-day course of HIV medication. It must be started within 72 hours of the exposure in order to be effective.
If this happens, don't panic, but do go to your emergency room as soon as possible to obtain the prescription. Even if you are uninsured, the county should pay for this treatment in most places.

HIV PReP . Pre-exposure prophylaxis . From the CDC .
If you have frequent unprotected sex with multiple partners, or experience a high rate of condom failure; are unable to sustain erections with condoms; or want to utilize every available tool to ensure that you don't contract HIV, then you can benefit from HIV PReP.

PrEP currently consists of taking one daily pill, Truvada, which is a combination of two popular anti-HIV medication. This has been studied and shown to prevent HIV infection, for those who take the pill on a regular basis. This is not a pill you can take on a one-off basis, or just prior to having sex, unlike a condom you can just put on. It only works if the level of the drug is sufficiently high in the blood.

Why isn't every sexually active HIV-negative person on PrEP ? The 2 primary reasons are cost and potential side effects.
Regarding cost, Truvada is a brand-name drug that costs over $1,000 a month. Those who are uninsured, or underinsured, and on high-deductible plans, may not be able to afford the drug.
Regarding side effects : short and long-term side effects of Truvada are well known in HIV positive individuals. Truvada affects kidneys, especially for long-term use. It appears that the side effects may not be as bad in HIV negative individuals. However, PrEP has not been studied long enough as of this writing to know the long-term effects of taking Truvada in HIV-negative individuals.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Andrew Sullivan grasping at straws

This is a response to an Andrew Sullivan blog post .

Quote :

"The choice was either civil marriage or civil unions with all the state-accorded rights and benefits of civil marriage. Now I have long argued that civil unions are no substitute for civil marriage – but am I prepared to say that everyone who disagrees with me is motivated by the kind of rank bigotry that Sterling represents? Of course not. That was the position of the Human Rights Campaign for many years, after all. They may be tools, opportunists, resource-hoggers and credit-grabbers, but they’re not bigots."
A few corrections are in order :
  1. there have never been any civil unions in California. There are domestic partnerships. Please be historically accurate.
  2. California registered domestic partnerships (RDP) didn't actually offer all the state-accorded rights and benefits of civil marriage. There are a few differences, most significantly, the requirement that both partners must reside together at the same address in order to enter into a domestic partnership.
    Please see
    This caused some to be excluded from CA RDP, notably prisoners, which could still enter into a civil marriage.This may sound like a small difference, but it is actually significant in light of this case :
    This common residency requirement for RDPs existed back in 2008 at the time of the Proposition 8 campaign, but has apparently been lifted since
  3. CA RDP did not enjoy much recognition outside of California, especially not in other countries, whereas CA same-sex marriages did. Most significantly, those who entered into a CA RDP never got any federal recognition. The 18,000 same-sex couples who married in California got federal recognition in retrospect in light of the Windsor case . While that may not be a state-accorded right, but it is definitely one very important benefit of marriage that CA RDPs lack.
  4. Therefore, the actual choice that was on the ballot in CA's 2008 Proposition 8 was :
    Keep both the superior CA civil marriage and the inferior CA registered domestic partnerships
    for same-sex couples in California.
    Eliminate the existing right to a CA civil marriage, and keep only the inferior CA RDP as an option for same-sex couples in California.
  5. Whatever you may think of HRC, they never advocated voting for Prop 8 and eliminating the rights to a civil marriage from same-sex marriage in California.  HRC actually gave $2,057,981 to "No on 8". It is simply a lie to interpret HRC's past positions as supporting Proposition 8. In reality, HRC never advocated the elimination of rights to a same-sex civil marriage for anyone, in any state, at any time. 
  6. In my opinion, anyone who donated to "Yes on 8" and thus contributed to successfully taking away civil rights was, indeed, an anti-gay bigot, unless proven otherwise.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

About the Mozilla CEO resignation

There has been much news over the last week about Mozilla .
See  .
Here is my take.

Prop 8. was passed after an extremely deceitful campaign. The "Yes on 8" TV ads were blatant lies, and just horrible. Even some of my low-information, non-voting, gay friends who say them thought they should vote for prop 8 after seeing them.
Prop 8 was unlike all other state constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage, because it revoked rights that were already legally recognized.

I was deprived of the rights to marry my partner in California for many years, as many other LGBT couples were. Brendan Eich contributed $1000 towards that campaign. Unlike the 52% of the California electorate who voted for Prop 8 in 2008, this contribution was not the mere expression of an opinion, but something he actively did to influence the result of the referendum that stripped me and others of rights. While the Supreme Court declared in "Citizens United" that money is speech, I don't accept that.
I cannot simply ignore that he made that this contribution. Neither do I think the rest of the world can. I think some backlash against Brendan Eich is entirely warranted.

Whether backlash against him should translate to a Firefox boycott is much more debatable. For better or worse, a CEO represents the corporation, and his political opinions cannot be merely considered private matters. I believe CEOs should be held to a higher standard than lower-level, non-management positions. In this particular case, Brendan Eich was already in a high-level position, as a co-founder of Mozilla, and previously CTO. He was not recently hired, but merely internally promoted to CEO. His "Yes on prop 8 "donation was uncovered years ago, and did not make headlines as big then as now. The Mozilla board probably underestimated how big of an issue this would become after his promotion.

There is no evidence that he has taken discriminatory actions against Mozilla LGBT employees in the past. He has promised that he would not do so either as CEO in the future.
However, he has never publicly discussed his reasons for funding Prop 8 in the past, and there is no evidence that he has changed his mind on the subject. If he did, I believe he would have told the world already, and ended the controversy already.
In my mind, it is difficult to reconcile having funded Prop 8 and not being an anti-gay bigot. While many were deceived by their churches and very strongly encouraged to fund Prop 8, we don't know if that was the case here. I believe he would have said so as well if this was the case. That leaves with him having been and still being an anti-gay bigot as the sole explanation for the funding Prop 8. He is certainly entitled to his bigoted beliefs. But free speech under the First amendment only means it is free of repercussions from the government, not from individual citizens. A boycott certainly falls under free speech as well. Several Mozilla employees have called for him to step down from his CEO role last week.

I'm a long-time contributor to the Mozilla project, including 9 years working on the NSS security library - but never as a Mozilla employee. I certainly don't want to see the Mozilla project disappear into oblivion. I am glad the controversy ended, before the damage to Mozilla and Firefox became irreparable. Having Brendan step down from the CEO role was the best outcome.

Of course, Brendan's $1000 contribution towards Prop 8 was relatively small, considering the $40 million+ spent on each side. I incidentally also donated $1000 to "No on Prop 8" - the same amount he gave to "Yes on 8". But I'm proud of having done so.
Other CEOs have contributed to anti-gay causes, even in tech . When AOL acquired Netscape, Steve Case donated millions to anti-gay organizations, all the while paying Netscape/AOL employees to contribute to the Mozilla project .
And obviously, companies like Chik-Fil-A, Barilla, Wal-Mart, Exxon, and their CEOs have done much worse.
In that light, the recent reaction to the new Mozilla CEO may be overblown.
Ultimately, it comes down to how much intolerance we can tolerate. I think it's a good thing that the bigots are being pushed into the closet, for a change. I worry that many will still continue to promote their bigotry anonymously, however.

As someone who is in an interracial, same-sex marriage, I would certainly be just as upset if he had donated to a group that opposed interracial marriage. I suspect the rest of the world would be more upset about it than about his donation to "Yes on prop 8".

There is a line between political opinions and human rights. Most people nowadays recognize that racism affects human rights and is not just a mere political opinion.
Many people, but not as many, also recognize that LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage, are human rights as well.
Hopefully In 50 years, there will be as few homophobes as there are racists today, but that will still be too many.