Friday, August 22

Fear of disorder

In Environmentalism and the Fear of Disorder, Ronald Bailey writes
...a lot of environmentalists experience many aspects of the modern world as chaotic and thus seek to compensate for their perceptions of disorder by engaging in ritual behaviors that make them feel like they are exerting more personal control. It is not much of a leap to conclude that by imposing those rituals on others, some environmentalists seek to reduce their dread of disorder even more.

Why call them rituals? Because it is not all that clear that they actually do anything much for the natural environment. For example, the costs of curbside recycling often outweigh purported benefits, and lower organic crop yields mean more land taken from nature. But as Meijers and Rutjens have shown, partaking in such rites is much like reciting the Rosary, in that they, too, reduce participant anxiety.

Saturday, April 12

Red cooked pork butt

3-4 lbs. pork butt

The day before:
Cut pork into large pieces, bring to a boil, cool and then rinse, refrigerate

Fry in a little olive oil:
chopped package shallots
sliced ginger (a piece the size of two thumbs)

Add:
All the meat
2 star anises
2 one-inch by ½ inch pieces of chinese cinnamon
1 Tablespoon sichuan peppercorns
6 dried peppers
5-6 pieces rock sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup rice wine for cooking
½ cup soy sauce
1½ cups water; the mix of meat and spices should be about 7/10 covered

Stew over a low flame until tender (1½-2 hours)

Sunday, April 6

Salmon fried rice

Use the leftover oil from frying salmon or salmon skin.

Chop about a cup cabbage, fry in the salmon oil, add half a cup of chopped cilantro, stir fry, mix in a couple of cups of cooked rice (adjust according to how oily you want it), sprinkle with salt, and you're done.

Salmon on rice wrapped in nori

That's about it. Salmon skin is good. Chop up the meat and skin and fry it up. (Save the oil and some of the meat for Salmon Fried Rice). Spread cooked rice at one end of a sheet of nori, spread on some salmon, sprinkle with furikake and wrap it in the nori; I don't know if it's genuine onigiri, but I like it.

Shiitake mushrooms with snow peas

Snap both ends off snow peas, slice about equal quantity of fresh shiitake mushroom caps (discard the stem) into thin slices. Heat oil, first dump in the mushrooms, then the snow peas, stir fry adding water whenever the liquid dries up. Don't overcook!

Chinese "meat loaf"

OK, it's not really a loaf, but it's meat.

½ lb. ground pork

Mix in a couple of teaspoons of:
soy sauce
rice
sesame oil

salt and pepper to taste.

Mince:
2 scallions
1½ teaspoon ginger
1 cup shiitake mushrooms

Microwave the mushrooms a minute or so; they'll shrink to about half.

Mix all ingredients together in a low bowl, then put the trivet in the rice cooker, two cups of filtered water, put a plate on the trivet (in case of spills) and the bowl on the plate. Click it on and take it out when it's done. Eat with rice.
To what shall I 
Compare this human life?
To the white wake
Of a boat rowing away
At the break of dawn.


Wisdom, of a sort

"Do not let these circumstances define you the way I let them define me."

"Revenge" Season 3 Episode 13 at 31:49,250

Dignity

In The War on Reason Paul Bloom writes,
In his recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker notes that a high level of self-control benefits not just individuals but also society. Europe, he writes, witnessed a thirtyfold drop in its homicide rate between the medieval and modern periods, and this, he argues, had much to do with the change from a culture of honor to a culture of dignity, which prizes restraint.
I had thought of "dignity" primarily in terms of just one of the American Heritage Dictionary's definitions, that is, "Stateliness and formality in manner and appearance", and #4 in the OED reads "Nobility or befitting elevation of aspect, manner, or style; becoming or fit stateliness, gravity" and refers us to "dignified": "Marked by dignity of manner, style, or appearance; characterized by lofty self-respect without haughtiness; stately, noble, majestic."

But that's not cited in the Macmillan English Dictionary, which instead only mentions "the impressive behavior of someone who controls their emotions in a difficult situation," whereas Merriam-Webster offers "a way of appearing or behaving that suggests seriousness and self-control" and "the quality of being worthy of honor or respect".

I did not know this. And even if the Macmillan English Dictionary gives the example "She faced her death with great dignity" for their above definition, restraint and control of one's emotions aren't apparently what "dignity" means in the Death with Dignity movement, which states,
The greatest human freedom is to live, and die, according to one's own desires and beliefs. From advance directives to physician-assisted dying, death with dignity is a movement to provide options for the dying to control their own end-of-life care.
So in "death with dignity", it's still control, but control of one's own future. I have the impression that it also suggests there's something undignified about living in an unpleasant manner, that is, suffering from the symptoms of illness and its treatment: pain or unpleasant side effects from medication or other life-prolonging measures.

But for me, life, and aging, and death itself are all pretty undignified.

Sunday, February 9

Freedom of Religion But Not of Consumption

Yes, Americans have freedom of religion, of speech, of assembly, and of petition, but we don't have freedom to choose what we consume.
One of Ron Paul's defining moments on the national stage...was when, at the first 2012 cycle Republican presidential candidate debate in May 2011, he mocked the notion that legalizing heroin was a terrible idea that would lead everyone to do heroin.

"It's amazing that we want freedom to pick our future in a spiritual way but not when it comes to our personal habits," he said, and advocated leaving drug policy to the states....
On a related note, heroin overdose is apparently almost nonexistent.

Tuesday, January 28

Sounds that seemed familiar‏

From Futility Closet:
I was in the Outer Hebrides and I came across an abandoned derelict croft. It had no roof, but very substantial walls and in the gaps between the stonework was a starlings’ nest. I could hear the birds inside, and eventually one of the starlings came to defend its territory. I heard straight away that it wasn’t just the usual rambling song. It started to mimic a Corncrake, a species that is very rare in mainland Britain. It did this bird’s buzzing repetitive song, but then it immediately went into other sounds that seemed familiar and had a strong rhythm to them. As I was listening I was looking around and could see the remnants of farm machinery, including an ancient tractor that had not moved for 20-30 years. I realised this bird was singing the song of some of this machinery. It was singing the song of a mechanical pump that had obviously been active around this farm, and used by the people who had lived here.
I wasn’t listening to the same starling that heard these original sounds. These copied sounds are usually passed on from parents or neighbouring birds so that a young bird absorbs and then duplicates them. The strange thing was that I was recording the sounds in what had been somebody’s living room, a place that had obviously been full of the conversations of family life over generations and which had passed into history. Yet the birds had returned and taken it back — claimed this space and these rocks — and were singing their own song. And they were singing the songs that were around when the people were here.
– Chris Watson of Tyne and Wear, U.K., quoted in Mark Cocker’s Birds & People, 2013

Saturday, January 4

On using religion for evil

Speaking to the protagonist Robert of the ideas of his Satanic companion, Mr. Blanchard, "who was reckoned a worthy, pious divine" says,
It is incalculable what evil such a person as he may do, if so disposed. There is a sublimity in his ideas, with which there is to me a mixture of terror; and, when he talks of religion, he does it as one that rather dreads its truths than reverences them. He, indeed, pretends great strictness of orthodoxy regarding some of the points of doctrine embraced by the reformed church; but you do not seem to perceive that both you and he are carrying these points to a dangerous extremity. Religion is a sublime and glorious thing, the bonds of society on earth, and the connector of humanity with the Divine nature; but there is nothing so dangerous to man as the wresting of any of its principles, or forcing them beyond their due bounds: this is of all others the readiest way to destruction. Neither is there anything so easily done. There is not an error into which a man can fall which he may not press Scripture into his service as proof of the probity of, and though your boasted theologian shunned the full discussion of the subject before me, while you pressed it, I can easily see that both you and he are carrying your ideas of absolute predestination, and its concomitant appendages, to an extent that overthrows all religion and revelation together; or, at least, jumbles them into a chaos, out of which human capacity can never select what is good. Believe me, Mr. Robert, the less you associate with that illustrious stranger the better, for it appears to me that your creed and his carries damnation on the very front of it.
James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)

By the way, shortly after the above, Robert and his companion murder Mr. Blanchard.

Saturday, December 21

An engineer's view of academics

After having received a college fellowship and then serving as a schoolmaster, Harry Clavering decides he wants to be a civil engineer to join the ranks of those who "to do most in the world". Yet when he takes up his training he feels disdainful of his fellow engineers, one of whom remarks to his wife of highly educated people like Harry Clavering:
“I know well what such men are, and I know the evil that is done to them by the cramming they endure. They learn many names of things—high-sounding names, and they come to understand a great deal about words. It is a knowledge that requires no experience and very little real thought. But it demands much memory; and when they have loaded themselves in this way, they think that they are instructed in all things. After all, what can they do that is of real use to mankind? What can they create?”

“I suppose they are of use.”

“I don’t know it. A man will tell you, or pretend to tell you—for the chances are ten to one that he is wrong—what sort of lingo was spoken in some particular island or province six hundred years before Christ. What good will that do any one, even if he were right?”
The Claverings, by Anthony Trollope (1866)

Wednesday, November 27

Chinese broccoli (kailan; 芥藍)

Soak in a large container, then rinse all the dirt off.Cut off the tough thick bottom "trunks" and discard.
Cut the large leaves off the "trunks", then cut the stems off those leaves, then cut the top leafy part off.
  • Cut the bottom "trunks" at a 25°-30° angle, so pieces are about 1" long
  • Cut the leaf stems about 1" long
  • Cut the leaves into sections about 1" long
Pour a little oil in a frying pan, then put in the cut stems and "trunk" pieces and stir fry for about a minute. Add the chopped leaves, gently stir-frying for another three minutes or so. (It's important not to overcook the broccoli.) Sprinkle with salt.

I like it much more than broccoli.

Chicken with shiitake mushrooms

  • 1 lb. boned chicken thighs 
  • 1 T Chinese rice wine
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 2-3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 T hot broad bean paste (辣豆瓣醬)
  • 15-20 shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, washed and drained
  • salt to taste
  • 1 t sesame oil
Remove the fat from boned chicken thighs, and cut into small 1/2-1" pieces. Steep in a little Chinese rice wine and sesame oil for 1/2-1 hr.
Wash 15-20 mushrooms, cut off and discard stems, cube caps into 1/2 pieces.
Heat oil in frying pan, drop in minced garlic cloves, then add hot broad bean paste, stir-fry briefly, then add chicken and stir-fry until nearly cooked through, then remove from pan, leaving the liquid.
Dump in mushrooms, stir, then cover for a few minutes (they'll suck up the liquid at first, then soften), then add chicken and when almost done, sprinkle with salt and add cilantro and sesame oil.

Tuesday, November 26

Roast duck

I just got one at the Ranch 99 Supermarket. They all looked a little pale and sure enough, they hadn't been roasted until the skin was really crispy. What a disappointment. I'll take the rest and heat it up (or roast a little) in the toaster oven. I'll have the leftovers for Thanksgiving.

Tongho (茼蒿, aka Garland Chrysanthemum, Chop Suey Green)

She used her thumbnail to make sure the leaves or stems she pinched off were tender enough.
Stir-fry until they're wilted--they'll cook down a lot--add a little salt.

Shiitake mushrooms with mung bean sprouts

Wash 7 or 8 mushrooms, cut off and discard stems, cut caps into ¼ strips, stir-fry in oil about a minute then add the washed and drained sprouts (12 oz. package), continue frying, then add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of salt and stir fry for 7 or 8 minutes until the mushroom flesh is no longer white but the sprouts aren't soft.