Another creationist eruption

September 30, 2007

For a brief period yesterday Prof. Smith’s Weblog was one of the most popular among WordPress’s 1.25 million blogs. It’s not ranked there for brilliant writing or wonderful content — most of it seems to be apologetics for creationism and intelligent design. I suppose creationist sites might have discovered it.

Prof. Smith is not identified in any way. A rational person and others of good character might take alarm at how such a site can be so popular, without showing Brittany Spears or Lindsay Lohan undressed. The bare facts, offensive as they may be, would be an improvement over misleading material.

Legendary hoaxes: Neiman Marcus cookie recipe

September 30, 2007

Neiman Marcus cookies, Evans Caglage/Dallas Morning News photo, food styling by Jane Jarrell

[Substitute photo from Desserts by Juliette,]

Photo: Evans Caglage for the Dallas Morning News; food styling by Jane Jarrell [photo no longer available; substitute photo from Desserts by Juliette]

Caption: “When the legend wouldn’t die, Kevin Garvin created a cookie worthy of the Neiman Marcus name.” and other sites debunk the old urban legend about the woman who was charged “two-fifty” for a chocolate chip cookie recipe at Neiman Marcus’ stores — but in defense of mainstream media, let it be noted that the Dallas Morning News does it up right, repeating the recipe, fact-checking the story, and actually baking the cookies and providing that mouth-watering photo above (et tu, Pavlov?)

The story began circulating in the late ’80s and spread quickly.

Although Neiman’s denied the story – in fact, the company said it had never served cookies in its restaurants – it kept gaining momentum. Finally, with the help of the Internet and e-mail, it became The Urban Legend That Would Not Die.

Inquiries about the costly recipe kept coming in until, finally, the store tasked its bakers to come up with a recipe worthy of the NM reputation. It was perfected in 1995 by Kevin Garvin and is on the company Web site, Free. It also is in the Neiman Marcus Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, $45) by Mr. Garvin and John Harrisson.

The store served cookies made from the recipe as part of its 100th anniversary celebration this month.

When victimized by a hoax, make a cookbook and make some money off of it. Of course, it’s a lot nicer being “Neiman Marcus cookied” than being “swift-boated.”

Here’s the Neiman Marcus version of the Neiman Marcus cookie made famous in the hoax:

  • ½  cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
  • 1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 F. Cream the butter with the sugars until fluffy using an electric mixer on medium speed (approximately 30 seconds).

Beat in the egg and vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda and beat into the butter at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and the chocolate chips.

Using a 1-ounce scoop or 2-tablespoon measure, drop cookies onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2-inch circle.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispy cookie.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

PER SERVING: Calories 154 (43% fat) Fat 8 g (5 g sat) Cholesterol 20 mg Sodium 119 mg Fiber 1 g Carbohydrates 21 g Protein 2 g


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Trial by Jury (grades 5-8)

September 30, 2007

Trial simulations put students into the middle of tough topics in government, economics and history — or can do, depending on how well the simulations work. In the middle of the fight is a great place to learn. features a series of lesson plans suitable for government and civics. Looking for Constitution Day lesson plans I stumbled into a trial-by-jury simulation, with the mock trial script all prepared for you, for grades 5 through 8.

It looks to me to be a good way to study the jury system (see Amendments 6 and 7 of the Constitution).  The lesson plans and materials were designed, and their dissemination supported by the American Board of Trial Advocates.  Yes, that’s a group with a view; no, the bias doesn’t show up in the classroom materials, really.

Here’s a graphic on amending the Constitution, from the same site. This could be reproduced for student journals, printed for small posters, or, check with your high school drafting classes to see whether they won’t print this out for you in a poster size, in color. features nine graphic pages like that one.

Trial by jury provides the foundation for some of our greatest drama: On television with Perry Mason, Matlock, Law & Order, Boston Legal, or L.A. Law; on the stage with Inherit the Wind and Ayn Rand’s The Night of January 16th; in opera with Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury (okay, in operetta). This is the sort of thing students enjoy, and probably will remember.

How and why to show up for jury duty is one of the most important understandings our students can take away.

Justice by the People logo, from

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