bookmark_borderWhere can I buy food-grade caustic soda?

Originally uploaded by adactio

In southern Germany, Brezeln are a beloved type of bread.

Being half Swabian myself (and the great-grandson of Stuttgart’s best Brezel baker), of course I miss them, and I would love to be able to bake them myself.

I’ve sometimes baked some with Miriam (my sister), boiling them in a mixture of natron and water, and although the taste was OK, they didn’t get the proper dark-brown colour.

However, I’ve now found a recipe that looks like it might be just what I’ve been looking for.

It tells you to soak the unbaked Brezeln in a strong caustic soda solution, and it says you can either get this at a pharmacy or a baker’s shop. (“36 % Natronlauge bekommt man aus der Apotheke oder vom netten Bäcker, der einen etwas abfüllt.”)

However, when I googled caustic soda, all the shops that sell it in the UK (such as Boots) seem to be selling it as a drain cleaner, and I have my doubts it’s really food-grade caustic soda.

If I’m willing to buy 10 metric tonnes, I can get it, but I’m not sure I can eat that many Brezeln. 🙁

Any ideas?

bookmark_borderPink is light red!

Blue and pink cupboards
Originally uploaded by viralbus

Phyllis was taught as a kid that red and pink should not be worn together.

If this is common knowledge in the English-speaking world, I’ll warrant a guess that the designer of these cupboards wasn’t from here.

However, if the designer was Danish, the colour scheme becomes understandable:

In Danish, the cupboard on the left is mørkeblå “dark blue” and lyseblå “light blue” (so no surprises there!), while the one on the right is mørkerød “dark red” and lyserød “light red”.

In other words, Danish for “pink” is “light red”, so to a native Danish speaker the cupboard is painted in two shades of the same colour, just like the blue one.

bookmark_borderThe new European Commission

José Manuel Barroso unveiled his new team today.

Of course, the European Parliament will need to approve the new commission before they can take office, but I doubt there is anything or anybody so scandalously bad that they won’t.

That said, I’m not too impressed in general. Here are the ones I have some issues with:

  • Joaquín ALMUNIA: Competition. Will he really be able to stand up to big business as past competition commissioners have done? I hope so, but he doesn’t seem to have much experience of industry.
  • Michel BARNIER: Internal Market and Services. British newspapers are worried he’ll be bad for the City of London. I’m more worried whether he’s too close to the French government to stand up to them where they are distorting the internal market. I would have preferred the post to be filled by a candidate from a smallish country.
  • Dacian CIOLOS: Agriculture and Rural Development. A Romanian to head agriculture, when Romania in general is against CAP reform, being a large country with lots of poor peasants? Perhaps not the best idea if Barroso intends to make progress on CAP reform.
  • Neelie KROES: Digital Agenda. She did a great job as competition commissioner. This hardly looks like a promotion!
  • Günter OETTINGER: Energy. Germany is very Russia-friendly when it comes to energy, so I find it doubtful that a German will be able to please the former communist member states. I think Barroso should have gone for somebody more neutral, that is, neither a German nor a Baltic commissioner.

Many of the other appointments are unproblematic, but I can’t help thinking that Barroso hasn’t set up his team for maximum impact.

Sometimes I really miss Delors!

bookmark_borderFirefox aliases with substitution strings

Bookmark propertiesThis is possibly really well known, but I haven’t seen it mentioned often, and I’ve forgotten how I learnt it.

So I thought other might perhaps benefit from this.

First of all, you might know that if you right-click on a bookmark in the Bookmarks menu, you can bring up Properties in a window.

The Keyword field there will allow you to go to that bookmark by writing this keyword in the address bar. (That is, if you’ve made “widmann” the keyword for the bookmark for this blog, you can just type “widmann” in the address bar instead of “”.)

The interesting feature here is that you can use ‘%s’ in the Location field, and this is then replaced by whatever you write after the keyword.

That is, if you have created a bookmark and set the location to “” and the keyword to “ods”, you can type “ods blog” in the address bar and this automagically expands to “”.

This can be really useful for dictionary-like sites such as Wikipedia.

bookmark_borderTime for a split?

paint wall split
Originally uploaded by zen

As the recent statistics showed, I blog about many topics and in many languages.

I’m sure many of my readers know and expect this (perhaps they even like it?), but I imagine it might be frustrating for some.

I presume you might be interested in my thoughts on British politics without wanting to read about child language development in Danish.

From my own point of view, it is frustrating that I can’t add my blog to an index of political blogs.

So I’ve been wondering whether I should split my blog in two, putting everything about politics in English into a separate blog, and keeping the rest here.

Would it be a problem that the political blog wouldn’t be very active (around a blog post a week)?

Would the political stuff leave a gap at the main blog?

Is it wrong to leave the rest here, or should I really create five or ten blogs?

What do you think?

bookmark_borderCrab apple apple scab

Crab apples
Originally uploaded by ahisgett

When we bought our house two years ago, we started planting a lot of stuff and generally doing up the garden.

One of the first trees we planted was a crab apple of the cultivar John Downie, which we chose because it was said to be the best crab apple for making jellies.

Alas, it also turned out to be very susceptible to apple scab, and although we could to some extent control it with an antifungal spray, it was clearly spending all its strength fighting off the disease instead of producing apples, so I have now removed it.

I was surprised by its lack of root when I pulled it up – the poor thing clearly didn’t even have enough resources to send out roots!

Anyway, we now need a new crab apple tree, and preferable one that is as resistant to apple scab as possible.

I don’t think any fully resistant trees are available in the UK, so I’m thinking about either a Red Sentinel or a Pink Glow, or perhaps an Evereste.

Can anybody here recommend one?

bookmark_borderTag stats

I haven’t analysed my tag usage since August 2007, so it must be time to have another look at this.

LanguagesLet us first have a look at the languages used (the graph on the right – click on it for a larger version).

It’s clear that English is by far the most frequently used language here, followed by Danish, and the distribution doesn’t seem to change much over time, so the drift towards English that I detected two years ago seems to have stopped.

Although I do occasionally blog in other languages, it’s basically a little added spice rather than a regular occurrence.

I’d love to promise to blog more frequently in other languages, but I must admit that it takes more time and limits my readership, so it’s unlikely to change drastically any time soon.

Other tagsThe situation is quite different when we look at the topics that I blog about (the graph on the left – again, click on it for a larger version).

Politics is clearly the most important topic, but apart from a brief spike during the summer months, it has never come close to dominating the blog – it’s just primus inter pares.

Also, the picture is much less steady. A topic can become rather frequent for a month or two and then fade away again.

Just like last time, I’m not sure what to conclude. I clearly have many interests, and my blog reflects that. 🙂