i couldn't get over how much ambassador taylor sounds like and somewhat resembles actor hugo weaving. the testimonies were so interesting, i almost wanted to record it before leaving, but i figured there'd be hours of hearing today and it'd still be happening when i got back.

Jane Perlez - On the trail of Xi Jinping: A New York Times Correspondent on Reporting in China. having grown up in australia, she was one of the few westerners to have visited china during the cultural revolution during a student vacation. i don't know if her talk specifically addressed the challenges of covering xi jinping in china, but with so much experience under her belt as a foreign correspondent for the new york times (including winning the pulitzer prize for taliban/al qaeda war coverage), anything she said was interesting. i sat next to two very rude chinese, who continued chatting when the talk started and chortled when someone asked a question about hong kong.

afterwards i went directly to market basket to get some groceries, including ingredients for making grilled ham & cheese sandwiches, which i've decided i'd have for the rest of the week.

the weather turning cold was a good time to get back into bread making. i mixed a batch of no knead bread dough last night around midnight. i left it covered in my bathroom as it was the warmest place in the house. i left it to ferment overnight and throughout most of today. the bathroom smelled of fermenting yeast, not at all unpleasant, and a sign that my year old yeast was still viable. small holes formed all over the dough from escaping fermented gas. around 5pm, before i was about to leave for my 2nd harvard lecture of the day, i scooped the sticky dough out of the glass pyrex bowl onto a piece of parchment paper. it was so sticky, i couldn't get it to fold on itself to form a ball. so i did the best i could and left the dough as is, covered up and left to ferment a second time for 2 more hours, as per instructions. i then left for the lecture.

Paleovirology: Ghosts and Gifts of Ancient Viruses. even though the speaker was fairly dynamic, the talk started a bit slow. but then it picked up when it was revealed that mammalian placenta development have long ago incorporated foreign virus DNA into the genome. so viruses can both harm and help. another cool thing is the viral DNA incorporation can be dated, and can be tracked on the evolutionary charts.

back at home, it was time to bake the bread. the dough didn't seem to have risen very much, perhaps spread out more than actually rising. it was impossible to remove the dough from the parchment paper so i ended up just throwing the whole thing inside the preheated dutch oven. while that was happening, i mixed up a 2nd bread dough, this time measuring out the ingredients more carefully. the current bread seemed destined to fail, i was determined to try again and get it right. after the 30 minute mark when i removed the bread from the oven, it didn't look so bad. i put it back into the oven for another 20 minutes to brown the surface.

when the bread was finally done, i removed it from the dutch oven and ripped off the parchment paper that was partially stuck to the bread. although it looked flat, tastewise it wasn't bad, crispy on the outside, soft and chewy and moist on the inside. i ended up heating a bowl of leftover frozen beef barley stew because i felt it'd go great with the bread. good bread, bad stew.