Exact Potato Soup Recipe

Potato SoupAlmost four years ago, I posted one of my “mom’s recipes” for cream of potato soup. This references the fact that my mother didn’t use recipes. So whenever I would ask her how to make something she would only be able to give the most vague recipe. But over the past year, I have worked out an exact recipe that I would like to share with you all. Now I don’t know how good it is. I love it, but I grew up eating it. My mother was an excellent cook, though; so I think you can depend upon it.

The great thing about it is that it isn’t a terribly rich cream soup—just enough. And it isn’t complicated. You don’t even have to make a roux. It is basically cutting vegetables and putting them in a pot.


6 cups potatoes chopped
2 cups carrots chopped
2 cups onion chopped
10 cups water
2 cloves garlic diced
2 tsp pepper
1-2 tsp salt
1 cup elbow macaroni
1 cube butter
1.5 cups milk


Chop the potatoes into roughly half inch cubes. Chop the carrots into quarter inch cylinders. Chop the onions to about a quarter to half inch. Put all of that in a large pot and add water and heat it to boil. Reduce heat. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper. Boil slowly, covered for an hour. Mix it now and then. Add macaroni. Boil for another 20 minutes. Add butter and milk. Heat for another 5 minutes and serve.

It makes quite a lot, but I couldn’t say how many servings. Frankly, I tend to over eat the stuff. But it’s great for the winter and I can eat it for days on end.

There are lots of ways that you can change the recipe. It is very easy to substitute cauliflower for some of the potatoes. But I wouldn’t go too far with that. Cauliflower has a distinctive taste that can dominate if you have too much of it in there. Generally, I think cauliflower works better with a thicker, roux based soup. You can also use chicken stock and bacon grease for flavoring. Also, you can play with the pepper. It works well to have a bit of a bite. I think 2 teaspoons of salt is about perfect; I think you’ll find that 1 is a bit bland. You can also put in whatever kind of pasta you have laying around. But if it is long, make sure you break it up. And remember that it will expand so use about half of what you think you need. Note that it’s also very cheep: maybe around $3.00 for a whole lot of soup. Enjoy!

David Frum Fantasy Ted Cruz Hellscape

David FrumYou all know what I think of David Frum: he’s an idiot. And people just love him! He’s that most beloved of figures in the mainstream media: a “reasonable” Republican. And what did he do to get that? Oh, a few things here and there. He isn’t a ranter; that’s probably the most important thing. But he’s also for minor forms of gun control. And after decades of being against same sex marriage he came out for it two years ago. But he’s still against legalizing cannabis. He wrote, “If somebody could prove to me that marijuana was harmless or that legalization would not lead to an increase in marijuana use, I’d change my mind about marijuana legalization.” So when no reasonable person anywhere can argue a point, Frum is right there to sign up. He’s a special kind of follower: always last.

When it comes to economic and international policies, Frum is as bad as they get. So I’m not inclined to think that he’s reasonable. Now if same sex marriage was the most important issue in the world to me, I might think differently—even though Frum came to the party pretty late. Ditto for gun control. And other than that, what exactly does he offer? He doesn’t question President Obama’s birth certificate? Whatever.

Today at The Daily Beast, Frum wrote a very strange column, How Ted Cruz Can Win in 2016. After reading it, I doubt that most people will have any idea if it is supposed to be ominous or encouraging. He really doesn’t tip his hand. But if you look at other things he’s written, a pattern emerges. First there was, Why Does Ted Cruz Inspire Such Animosity? Then there was, Can Ted Cruz Win by Losing? Frum doesn’t lay it on thick, but he clearly likes Cruz and would appreciate working for him in the White House. (Alright, I’m speculating about that, but even I’d rather work for Cruz than Bush Jr.)

The actual winning plan is pathetic. Basically, the Democratic Party gets split between Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren. There is an economic crisis. Cruz picks Chris Christie as his running mate, and they squeak into office.[1] What makes this really pathetic is that the only thing that matters in the story is the economic crisis. If things take a major turn for the worse, whatever Republican runs for president in 2016 will probably win. That’s just political science fundamentals. We all know that if everyone is out of work, they will throw out the party in power. That will mean that the party that is most responsible for the bad economy will be rewarded. That sucks, but that’s America.

So this is what the prototypical “reasonable” Republican uses his very big platform for: dreaming about a world in which food is denied the poor, healthcare is denied the sick, and war with Iran is imminent. It also shows you just how important gun control and same-sex marriage is to him: Cruz is very much against both. I suspect that Frum would say the same thing I do, “Those issues are not as important as economic and foreign policy issues.” The problem is that making the economy and international relations worse is what Frum is willing to trade these issues for.

[1] He doesn’t mention the rest of the sad story. On inauguration day, Christie has a heart attack and falls on Cruz. Neither survives. Nancy Pelosi becomes president.

Evariste Galois

Evariste GaloisOn this day in 1838, the Romantic period composer Georges Bizet was born. He was only 36 when he died. I’m not that fond of this early work. But his operas are quite good. And then came Carmen. Interestingly, it was not well received when it first came out. There were a couple of reasons for this. First, it was pretty racy. Critics didn’t like the idea that the heroine was a seductress. Even in France at that time, people apparently wanted heroines who threw themselves on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands. But there was also criticism that the opera was tuneless. That’s hard to fathom now because there are at least five different tunes in Carmen that everyone knows. It probably didn’t help that at its premiere, Carmen ran four and a half hours long. Today, it runs a much more manageable two and half hours. Anyway, here is “Habanera” from Carmen. It is delightful:

Other birthdays: anarchist philosopher Max Stirner (1806); artist Pablo Picasso (1881); the great Swedish Post-Impressionist Nils von Dardel (1888); novelist Anne Tyler (72); musician Jon Anderson and whatever he is James Carville are both 69; and the voice of Bart Simpson Nancy Cartwright (56).

The day, however, belongs to the great mathematician Evariste Galois who was born on this day in 1811. He was a pioneering figure in the development of abstract algebra—basically breaking down algebra into structures. Think of it like language where algebra would be the rules of creating a syntactically correct sentence. Abstract algebra would explain the nature of how articles work in those sentences. If you think the math courses you took in college were hard, consider that I think that stuff is easy, but I think abstract algebra is mind boggling. That’s what Galois was doing in his teens two hundred years ago.

He is best know for something else, however. In addition to mathematics, he was a radical republican in France when it was dangerous to be so. And at 20, it looks as though his mouth got the better of him. He ended up in a duel with someone who he felt certain would kill him. The night before the event, he penned a very long letter to Auguste Chevalier that laid out a number of this mathematical ideas. He had published a few papers before this, but this letter is most of his work and it was revolutionary. It wasn’t even published for 14 years after his death.

You can see why mathematicians love the story. It is romantic in the extreme: a brilliant young man produces earth shattering work while he faces certain death. Of course, it is actually tragic. The mind bends to the things he might have done had he lived longer. The Chevalier letter ended, “Ask Jacobi or Gauss publicly to give their opinion, not as to the truth, but as to the importance of these theorems. Later there will be, I hope, some people who will find it to their advantage to decipher all this mess.” He knew he was right, he just wasn’t sure how important it was. And it turned out that it took a while for others to figure it out. The young man deserved the time to do so himself.

Happy birthday Evariste Galois!


I’ve been playing around with a play about Galois’ last night for a few years. It’s very postmodern. The difficulty of the math is a real problem. But I think it can be done. I have, however, never seen a play or movie about a mathematician that wasn’t dreadful. Math isn’t a patina that grows on the surface of a character. It radiates from the core.

Sympathy for Lt John Pike

Lt John PikeLt John Pike is back in the news. He’s the pepper spraying copy from the Davis protest two years ago. Yesterday, it was announced that Pike will receive $38,056 for a workers compensation claim. There is understandably much outrage in the liberal world about this. But I don’t go along with it.

According to the Davis Enterprise, “John Pike, 40, of Roseville, reportedly suffered depression and anxiety brought on by death threats he and his family received after the Nov. 18, 2011, confrontation at an Occupy UC Davis encampment.” I don’t doubt it’s true. If his claim were with regard to being a very public joke, I wouldn’t sympathize. For one thing, any harm that came to him in that regard would be totally offset with stuff like this:

Pepper Spray Jaws

But death threats and personal attacks are wrong. I understand why people do that and I am not innocent of it myself. But I don’t think that Pike is a monster. I’m sure in his mind he was just doing a job. And watching the video, I don’t get the impression that he is taking pleasure in what he’s doing. In fact, it seems almost robotic.

I find myself increasing at odds with both conservatives and liberals on these kinds of issues. Everyone wants to personalize it. Was Pike a good cop or a bad cop? To me, it is very simple: John Pike was a cop. We have a real problem with policing in this country. But it isn’t about what any particular cop does, although clearly, sociopaths show up in any line of work. The system itself is corrupt.

It is clear why a lot of cops think that they are being picked on by management and the public at large. I think there is something wrong with dumping all over one cop for stuff that they all do. Still, there is a satisfying irony of selective enforcement that is used everywhere in law enforcement coming back to bite those very same officers. But clearly, they would see it differently.

The bottom line is that focusing on Pike—regardless of his culpability—misses the point. Pike is gone from Davis. But the police still behave the same, because as a culture we seem to be all right with the idea that the police should largely be above the law. Or at very least, we don’t care.


Here is a typical and very understandable liberal reaction from The Young Turks:

Nathan Phelps, Survivor

Frank commented on one of my last posts and informed me that Shirley Phelps-Roper’s brother, Nate, is now an atheist. That makes me feel better. Rational thought and escape are possible. According to the only source on the Internet:

Nathan “Nate” Phelps is an American-born Canadian author, LGBT rights activist, and public speaker on the topics of religion and child abuse. He is the sixth of the thirteen children of Pastor Fred Phelps, from whom he — along with three of his siblings — has been estranged since his eighteenth birthday in 1976. Phelps permanently left Westboro Baptist Church in 1980. In the 20 years following his departure, Phelps tried to find a milder form of Christianity, and raised his own children within an Evangelical church, but his doubts only grew as he continued studying religion. At the Reason Rally in Washington on March 24, 2012, he told that the events of 9/11 finally brought him to disbelief:

“Then, one sunny September morning, the illusion of a personal God that I tried so hard to believe in, exploded over the skies of Manhattan. Even as the ashes and ruin of this horrific act of blind faith settled over New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, I watched people across the country scrambling to that same irrational altar for their answers. In the fierce storm of emotion that rolled across this country, one realization rose to the surface of my mind with blinding clarity: certainly this mechanism of unassailable blind faith is one of the greatest risks mankind faces today.”

He is known for his criticism of the Westboro Baptist Church through literature, interviews, public speaking at atheist conventions and his website. He states that his father physically abused him and the other Phelps children and he believes that the church is an organization for his father to “vent his rage and anger.” Phelps’ brother Mark supports and repeats Nathan’s claims of physical abuse by their father.

Life May Be Simpler Now

The Goldbergs

Paul Waldman wrote a good one yesterday, The False Glow of Remembered Childhood. It’s about how everyone looks back to the days of their childhoods and says, “Those times were simpler!” But that isn’t true. As he notes, in a general sense the times were not simpler. They were simpler for you. Why? “Because you were a child!”

The core of the article is a quote from Adam Goldberg, the creator and producer of the new television series, The Goldbergs. When asked why he set the show in the 1980s, Goldberg said, “I think the ’80s works for a TV show because it’s the last time the world was simple. It was before the Internet really changed everything and made the world really small.” Mr. Goldberg, of course, was born in 1976.

What I think is really interesting about this is that I remember seeing an interview with Garry Marshall, the creator and producer of Happy Days. Toward the beginning of the series, he was asked the same thing, “Why did you set this show in the 1950s?” And his answer was the same: because it was a simpler time. He didn’t mention the internet, of course. He mentioned drugs. Mr. Marshall, of course, was born in 1934.

In addition to this aspect of all our personalities, we are also parochial from the standpoint of time. I was just discussing in comments the fact that the humor of long ago—like Rabelais and Cervantes and Shakespeare—is far harsher. So if you look at what humans have done over a time scale of hundreds of years, you see that we’ve actually become better. Punch and Judy have been replaced by Barney & Friends. I think this is excellent.

But life goes on. We still have to feed and clothe ourselves. And doing that by telecommuting Python code is no more complex than hand planting crops. In fact, I would say it is less complex. The complexity of the society tends to make our lives easier and simpler. Of course, when people like Bill O’Reilly claim that things were simpler at one time, what they mean is that there was more conformity. But there wasn’t. It’s just that they didn’t see it. And that’s because, as Waldman says, they were children. But it ever was so. People said the same things back in 1859:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

I Think Your Bible is Broken

Reading comprehension is not encouraged at Westboro Baptist Church…

Proverbs 6:16–19

There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him
[because the Bible tells me so]:

haughty eyes

a lying tongue
[saying gays are evil, etc.],

hands that shed innocent blood
[gray area],

a heart that devises wicked plans
[such as picketing soldier’s funerals],

feet that make haste to run to evil
[or fly hundreds of miles to picket a soldier’s funeral],

a false witness who breathes out lies
[“You’re going to eat your babies!”],

and one who sows discord among brothers
[the definition of a WBC follower].