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.

Sunday, November 24

A couple of things from Take A Girl Like You (Kingsley Amis).

It's set in the 1950s, and the narrator makes several references to his car as an old "110", and at one point he tells someone it's a "Sunbeam Talbot". An article from London Magazine claims that "the car referred to can only have been a 1935 Talbot". An author from Motor sport argues that it "by inference must be a very tatty 34-litre Roesch Talbot". Maybe so, but any kind of Talbot looks pretty snazzy now.

And what do the writers of Weeds think of the Obama Economy?

From Season 3 Episode 10:
Celia Hodes: I can't wait for money to come in. I need it now.

Nancy Botwin: Jesus. Why are you in such bad shape?

Celia: I've been spending on my cash on coke and man whores....Why the hell do you think? I work a middle-class job in the Bush economy.
I don't know whether this was Jenji Kohan, Victoria Morrow, or someone else, but it's so Hollywood.

Oxtails stewed in red wine

  • oxtails (2-3 lbs.)
  • olive oil (enough to sauté the onions )
  • 2-3 large onions, chopped
  • 2-3 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 slices of ginger
  • other vegetables as you wish (carrots, mushrooms, etc.)
  • hot pepper (if you like it spicy)
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • red wine
Place oxtails in pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Discard the water, rinse the oxtails, and set aside.
In the stewpot, pour in a little olive oil, and sauté the ginger and onions until soft
Add tomatoes, continue to sauté for 1-2 minutes
Add the oxtails and any other vegetables
Pour in enough red wine to cover everything
Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer
Continue simmering for at least 3 hours, until the meat is almost falling off the bones
At this point, you can remove the meat from the bones, or leave it on for the diners

It's now ready to serve, but you can also refrigerate it and serve it the next day or the day after and it will taste even better.

Serve over pasta (rotini) or rice

Baby bok choy (上海白菜、青江菜)

Break the leaves off and soak in a large container, then rinse all the dirt off.
Cut the leaves from the stems, then cut the larger stems in half, then chop into sections about ⅓ of an inch wide. Cut the leaves into strips about the same size.

Pour a little oil in a frying pan, then put in the cut stems 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 choy.) Sprinkle with salt.

Edamame, carrot, and potato

  • 2 cups edamame (毛豆; green soybeans out of the pod; available frozen in asian grocery stores)
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1 medium potato
  • oil for frying
  • salt to taste
Cut the carrots and potato into small cubes no large than ¼ inch.
Pour a little oil into a frying pan, dump in the cubed carrots and potato, then add the edamame/soybeans. Cover, stirring occasionally (the potatoes may stick to the pan), and cook for 15 minutes or so. Salt to taste.

Tomatoes with tofu

  • 1 tomato (not really "tomatoes", is it?)
  • 1 lb. medium tofu
  • 1 scallion
  • oil for frying
  • soy sauce to taste
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste

Cut tofu into ¼ inch cubes, chop tomato into small pieces. Cut scallion into thin slices.
Pour a little oil into skillet, add the tomato and tofu and a splash of soy sauce, then cover, stirring occasionally (make sure tofu doesn't stick).
After 10-15 minutes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drop in the scallion, mix together, then shut off the heat and leave covered for a few minutes.

Tuesday, October 29

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Waffles

Sift before measuring:
⅔ cup all-purpose flour
resift with:
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
2 cups whole-wheat flour
(I haven't tried but maybe also 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and one teaspoon vanilla)?

3 egg yolks
To the yolks add:
2⅓ cups buttermilk (or the equivalent in powdered buttermilk, which comes to 9¼ Tablespoons of powder and the same amount of water)
½ cup oil + one Tablespoon
1 Tablespoon honey

Mix the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients

Beat until stiff:
3 egg whites
Fold into the batter

Cook on the waffle iron

Serve with syrup, fruit, etc.

Wednesday, October 9

inspirational books

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama & Howard C. Carter, M.D.
Books by Robert Fulghum
Jon Kabat-Zinn's Wherever You Go, There You Are or Full Catastrophe Living
Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
Burned: A Memoir by Louise Nayer
Unbroken: A WWII story of of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories of Healing After Loss by Gloria and Heidi Horsley
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Saturday, August 3

The whole idea of Tehachapi is a bad joke

California state laws require Southern California Edison to provide at least 33% of its power service from renewable sources by 2020. Southern California Edison developed the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project to build high-voltage transmission lines for transmission of electricity from wind farms and other generating units, at one point running through Chino Hills, which got some of the residents up in arms.

There's no question in my mind that Hope for the Hills is little more than another NIMBY group. As far as I can tell, their ire is not directed at the state of California, but at Southern California Edison. They're apparently not opposed to "renewable energy"; they just don't want to see high voltage transmission lines strung through their neighborhood. They claim that there are "health concerns" (see here), but I'm skeptical based on what I've read. Still, there's no question that real estate values would be negatively affected.

But I'm skeptical that wind power is all it's cracked up to be. See, for instance Mungowitz's posts on wind power.

The whole idea of Tehachapi is a bad joke.

Sunday, July 7

Something deeply significant

Something deeply significant is going on, if only we could grasp what precisely it is

Discussions of literature aside--

As a child, I felt that something deeply significant was going on in the world, if only I could grasp what precisely it was. Now what I perceive of the world makes sense to me only in isolated bits and pieces, and even then any meaning appears to have been imposed by fallible fellow humans, and may change at any time.

True elegance

"A gentleman should always be so well dressed that his dress shall never be observed at all. Does this sound like an enigma? It is not meant for one. It only implies that perfect simplicity is perfect elegance, and that the true test of taste in the toilette of a gentleman is its entire harmony, unobtrusiveness and becomingness."
--Gazette of Fashion, 1872 (via Ask the Past)

Actually, I just like being anonymous.

Friday, July 5

Results of crackdown on "price gouging"

A crackdown on "price gouging":
  • encourages precautionary hoarding after disaster strikes
  • discourages consumer conservation of goods in most demand
  • discourages suppliers from acquiring precautionary inventories of goods useful after disasters
  • discourages consumers from being prepared in advance for disasters
  • lack of rising prices will not attract more resources from surrounding areas.
based on Peter McCaffrey via Knowledge Problem

Wednesday, June 19

A preparation for something that never happens

“It is not that I have accomplished too few of my plans, for I am not ambitious; but when I think of all the books I have read, and of the wise words I have heard spoken, and of the anxiety I have given to parents and grandparents, and of the hopes that I have had, all life weighed in the scales of my own life seems to me a preparation for something that never happens.”
– Yeats, Reveries Over Childhood and Youth, 1914 (He was 49 that year)

Thursday, February 21

Paternalists think they know what's good for you

In A Paternalist Worries About Paternalism, Jacob Sullum writes that Cass Sunstein
worries about the consequences of inviting the government to protect us from ourselves.... Sunstein agrees with Bowdoin philosopher Sarah Conly... that people are prone to cognitive biases that lead to decisions they regret....
But Conly
is "ambivalent" about preventing people from using food stamps to buy soda: "She is not convinced that the health benefits would be significant, and she emphasizes that people really do enjoy drinking soda."...

If Sarah Conly can't be trusted to decide how much to eat, whether to consume products that contain trans fats, or whether to smoke cigarettes, how can she be trusted to make such decisions for the entire population?

Thursday, February 14

Gun stuff

In “The Suicide Paradox”, Stephen J. Dubner writes:
the fact is that suicide is more than twice as common as homicide. The preliminary numbers for 2009, the most recent year for which we have data, show there were roughly 36,500 suicides in the U.S. and roughly 16,500 homicides.
Also from Freakonomics' How to Think About Guns:
Gun buybacks are one of the most ineffectual public policies that have ever been invented in the history of mankind.
...we looked at the number of child deaths that were due to swimming pools, the number of child deaths that were due to guns, and then we put it in terms of how often will a given swimming pool kill a child versus how often will a particular gun kill a child. And it turns out that the swimming pool is far more lethal than the gun, that a given swimming pool is 100 times more likely to lead to the death of a child than a particular gun is to lead to the death of a child.
...the policies that can work are ones that tie heavy punishments to uses of guns that we don’t like. So for instance, laws that say if you commit a crime and you have a gun with you, regardless of whether the gun was used, then without any sort of other consideration, we add five years, or 10 years, or 20 years, or 50 years to the sentence that you get.
I think the fact that there are all the guns around is really accidental. You know, if guns were just being invented today, the treatment of guns would be completely different than the treatment we have in this country. So you know, it’s part of the Constitution. It’s been interpreted in various ways. But I think there are all sorts of things that you’re not allowed to do.... If you think about why is it that alcohol and cigarettes are legal and marijuana is not, I think that again is mostly accident. If people had been smoking regularly for the last 300 years and alcohol had just kind of come along and been on the fringes, there’s no way we’d say, you know, alcohol should be freely consumed by everyone all the time. So I’m not after making this country into a police state, but I think that people are kind of whacked when they act like there’s something fundamental about, you know, how guns should be part of society. It’s kind of a historical accident that you live with.
The mention of Geoff Canada’s Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun led me to Wikipedia, which claims (I omit the citations):
Canada writes, "many times children as young as six and seven would bring weapons to school, or pick up bottles, bricks, or whatever was at hand." He also says, "The first rules I learned on Union Avenue stayed with me for all of my youth. They were simple and straightforward. Don't cry. Don't act afraid. Don't tell your mother. Take it like a man. Don't let no one take your manhood" (emphasis in original).

Canada asserts that the culture of violence has been compounded in the decades since he grew up. He cites increases in recreational drug use and handgun usage. He specifically refers to the about 50,000 American children killed by guns between 1979 and 1991 to support his argument. Canada concludes that inner city neighborhoods must enact measures restricting handgun manufacture and possession as well as create safe haven areas for children.

Monday, February 11

Overtly unprincipled hacks

In DOJ kill list memo forces many Dems out of the closet as overtly unprincipled hacks, Glenn Greenwald writes,
[W]hen you endorse the application of a radical state power because the specific target happens to be someone you dislike and think deserves it, you're necessarily institutionalizing that power in general. That's why political leaders, when they want to seize extremist powers or abridge core liberties, always choose in the first instance to target the most marginalized figures: because they know many people will acquiesce not because they support that power in theory but because they hate the person targeted. But if you cheer when that power is first invoked based on that mentality - I'm glad Obama assassinated Awlaki without charges because he was a Bad Man! - then you lose the ability to object when the power is used in the future in ways you dislike (or by leaders you distrust), because you've let it become institutionalized.

Monday, February 4

I hope Emanuel's right

In "We Can Be Healthy and Rich" Ezekiel J. Emanuel suggests that Obamacare will actually drive health care costs down. David Henderson (ObamaCare: Two Ominous Signs) shows signs pointing the other way.

Thursday, January 10

Recipe for two sesame baguettes

Has one Sezme been looking at my recipes?
3 cups all purpose flour
1½ cups water
¼ teaspoon yeast
1½ teaspoons salt
(optional: small piece of risen dough: see below)
• Mix and let rise 4 hours, then refrigerate overnight.
• Take out the next morning at 9 a.m. to let it warm up
• At 10 shape it into 2 baguettes (at this point I take a thumb-sized piece of risen dough for next time)
• Place in baguette mold that you’ve sprinkled with sesame and let them rise in the oven
• At 11, take out to pre-heat the oven to 450° F
• Brush baguettes with milk and sprinkle the sesame seeds
• Slash baguettes with a knife (I have trouble making decent cuts)
• When the oven reaches 450°, put baguettes in mold back in the oven and bake for about 20 min.
• Remove from oven and cool.
• Then you can eat it at noon, but I prefer to leave lots of leftovers that I slice and toast on subsequent mornings.