Doctor Science Knows

Saturday, May 31, 2008

CSA Food: Lettuce Pray

I think I'm going to try to do a weekly post on, "what I got from my CSA this week and how I cook it". One of the things about a CSA is that it is *seasonal* -- you only get what's ripe this week, and you often get a *lot* of it. I'm glad to more of my flisties eating locally, so I figure I'll share some of my experience -- we've been in this CSA for maybe 15 years.

This week, it's lettuce. Four heads, each about as large as your head -- so each is maybe twice the size of what you'd get in the store, because so little is lost in transport. This week we got two red-leaf and two green leaf. We pick up on Tuesdays, so Tuesday dinner during lettuce season is generally this meal. We've had it twice this week so far, not counting leftovers for lunch.

All measurements are approximate.

Thai Beef or Chicken Salad
serves 4-6

fresh ginger, approx. 1 inch cube, cut into a couple of pieces
an equal quantity of fresh garlic
4 Tbl (1/4 c) soy sauce
4 Tbl (1/4 c) corn oil (cheaper) or peanut oil (tastier)
8 Tbl (1/2 c) lime juice -- I use Nellie & Joe's
2 tsp coriander seed, ground *or* about 1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped
1-2 lb beef (London broil is good) or chicken breast
another 2-4 Tbl oil
at least 1/2 head of lettuce, washed, then chopped or ripped into bite-sized pieces

Mince the garlic & ginger by whirling them in the food processor together. Add ground coriander (if you don't have cilantro), soy sauce, 1/4c oil, lime juice. Whirl together.

If using beef, marinate in lime mixture in fridge for at least 2 hours, more if beef looks tough. If using chicken, cut it into strips and marinate for only the time it takes your rice to cook.

When the rice has about 15 minutes to go (beef) or 5 minutes to go (chicken), heat the remaining 2-4 Tbl oil in the big frypan. When it's hot, take the meat out of the marinade, scraping the bits of garlic & ginger back into the bowl. Saute the meat until it's cooked -- for the chicken, just a few minutes of stir-frying. For the beef, cook until brown on both sides, then reduce heat (and maybe cover pan if needed) and cook to desired doneness.

Take the meat out of the pan and put it on a plate (chicken) or chopping board (beef).

Pour the remaining marinade into the pan with the oil & tasty bits from cooking the meat, and boil for 3 minutes or so, scraping up any bits.

Have the lettuce in a large to very large glass or stainless steel bowl. Pour a good amount of the hot marinade over the lettuce and toss it so that the greens wilt slightly. Then add the fresh chopped cilantro (if using) and toss again. Put any remaining marinade in a gravy boat or measuring cup to add ad lib.

Cut the beef into strips.

Serve: a pile of rice, either next to or covered with lettuce, meat on top, extra sauce dribbled onto the rice. There will be sauce in the bottom of the salad bowl, pour that on your rice, too. Some people will want hot sauce or peppers, others won't.

This is an exceptionally tasty meal, and one of my family's favorites.

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Polytheism and What Would Jesus Do?

There's a rather free-form discussion at Slactivist, to which I contributed:

Other people are addressing Greek/Roman polytheism, I'll talk about a couple others.

I recently asked some e-friends of Chinese background whether they thought most Chinese are atheists or not.

One said, "My parents seem to regard the gods as if they were a mildly corrupt, easily incensed government." This is IMHO very similar to ancient Greek/Roman religion: you worship the gods because it is prudent to do so. Pascal's Wager looks similar, but I don't think it is: for Pascal, you only find out if you won or lost the bet after you're dead. For these polytheistic religions, the bad consequences show up in the here and now: crop failures, bank failures, bad luck, bad water.

But my Chinese friends agreed that in general the theist/atheist distinction does not apply.

So maybe lots of Chinese don't have a deity they direct worship towards, and maybe they don't seem to carry out religious rituals or celebrate religious festivals all that often, but they live out their spirituality, if that makes any sense. What you might call "folk" beliefs are central to our lives in a way very similar to the way religious beliefs direct many Westerners' lives.

In contrast, a Hindu friend notes that

during my short stint teaching Religious Instruction, one of the main things I was told to emphasize to the students is that Hindus do NOT worship different gods. There is only One God, the Lord. He is in everything and in everyone and so his form is in thousands - Shiva, Rama, Lakshmi, Buddha, Jesus, etc. Which is why it's one of the few religions that doesn't preach converting, since my God and your God are the same 'person' (just with a different face).

So we give him different human characteristics, and different physical forms, to help in our own feeble understanding, but never one Ultimate form, because he is basically everything and nothing.

Each Hindu "god" is a Way, a path or discipline, much more than a separate god as in the usual Western understanding of polytheism. And this is despite the fact that the Greek gods and many Hindu gods are historically related -- the Hindu system has become something much wider and deeper over time, and Indra is no longer "really just" Zeus.

To dismiss either Chinese-style or Hindu-style polytheism out of hand is incredibly ethnocentric, given that between them they cover about half of all humans. But it's also incredibly *narrow*, because both types of polytheism acknowledge that not all people have the same minds and the same needs. "What Would Jesus Do?" implies that there is only one way to be a good human being -- it may be more helpful for more people to be able to have a variety of Best People to pattern ourselves after, so that some can say "What Would Ganesh Do?" and others "What Would Krisha Do?" without us having to say that only one of these can be *right*.

As an aside, this IMHO is one reason Catholicism is much more schism-resistant than Protestantism (see: Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915). The panoply of saints gives Catholics more heroes, more life-patterns to work with.

And then, of course, there's What Would Spock Do?

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Macho Sue and reconstructing the hero

In the discussion at slactivist on the Appeasement Meme, I wrote:

It is simply not possible that these people are sincere

I must respectfully disagree, Fred.

IMHO they *are* sincere. It's not so much that they are ignorant of history, etc., as that they are filtering everything through a narrative. They are telling themselves anot story, and I think our own Praline has most accurately nailed it: Macho Sue:

The essential story structure of a Macho Sue tends to revolve around untouchable pride. If love means never having to say you're sorry, being Macho Sue means the whole of reality loves you. Typically, Macho Sue's storyline follows a certain trajectory: he begins by acting egregiously, picking or provoking fights and causing problems. However much the ensuing difficulties can be laid at his door, Macho Sue is not about to apologise, in any way. So the problems continue - only to be salvaged by some immense reversals that give the impression that he was right all along. The man he insulted turns out, suddenly, to be a bad guy. The woman who dislikes him falls into his strong arms when he solves a problem that is not the same problem he caused for her. People change their personalities, storylines shift and flip like a mechanical maze popping up new paths and lowering old gates in order to keep Macho Sue from ever, ever having to backtrack. As John Wayne says, 'Never say sorry - it's a sign of weakness.'

Your crazy uncle/co-worker/President is telling himself a Macho Sue story, he's invoking Munich because he's re-imagined Winston Churchill as the Macho Sue star of WWII, the unshakable fighter who was right all along.

IMHO the parallels to "Left Behind" are exact. It doesn't matter to their fans that LaHaye & Jenkins have re-written or tossed out great swaths of the Bible -- "Left Behind" is a more satisfying, simple narrative for them, so when they do go to the Bible they will read it through the filter of "Left Behind".

I'm starting to think that what we need isn't logic, history, thought, or knowledge; what we need is better *stories*.

Fred picked that up and asked, Is there a third possibility, a way to get through to people using Macho Sue narratives? A great discussion is taking place, with some wonderful writing from Praline (Kit Whitfield) and others. My comment so far:

unless you can somehow create epiphanies on demand

We call that "story-telling". As Praline said, If people want heroes, give them better ones.

We need *better stories* -- not just in blogs, but books and movies and TV shows. And I think there's a specific need for better stories about men:

In the same way that Bush challenges people's manhood, B Clinton and Obama challenge people's principles - and men are supposed to be principled, so it can form an alternative template of manhood.

I've seen some tentative speculation that "Iron Man" could be the start of such a template, and that may have something to do with the film's huge and immediate popularity. I'm not sure yet, myself.

Over at her own blog, Praline writes about separating manhood from violence. I commented:

I think the problem is subtractive masculinity. If manhood is defined as "being a good person and male" it's easy to have role models like Atticus Finch. But if manhood is a virtue that women do not display, then only strength and violence will do. At the extreme, every other virtue becomes effete, unmanly, because it does not show you are a *man*.

I think the idea that men and women are complementary, "made to match" and balance each other, very easily slides over into subtractive masculinity.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Sadness and Badness

Epidemic of rape in the Congo.

Telling an awful story to the world

Musing on the global culture of rape.

Corporations that stand to profit, and US contact numbers.

I'll edit in the morning, when I can bear to actually read some of the stuff I'm linking to.

Before then, does anyone know how or which religious organizations are involved in this?

Women Helping Women International seems to be doing a lot of work on the ground. Here's their website:

I don't know if there's any organization that is working with the *men* in this most toxic of rape cultures.

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Blogcomment record: Pam Spaulding at Pandagon

Comments I made on Pam Spaulding's post about the Amanda-Seal Press controversy.

As I said last week, I'm back at Pandagon to hear what Pam has to say. Maybe I'm the only one, but I found this:
I missed the controversy over Amanda’s book. I’ve been so bogged down here in NC primary fever over at my pad (prez and state races), the Day of Silence, a family member in the hospital and — can you believe this — the day job, that people obviously thought I was simply ignoring this pot boiling over on the homebase stove
a hilarious example of just the kind of communication problem Pam is talking about. I was one of the people who was trying to be tactful and not bug Pam to wade into the mess until she was ready ... completely overlooking the possibility that *she'd never noticed* because of, like, having a life.

I have only a moderate amount of patience for people who talk about needing "safe spaces" on the Internet. As far as I'm concerned, *everyone* needs places where name-calling, ad hominem attacks, privacy violations, etc., won't occur -- that's not IMHO a "safe space", that's a "common decency space" and yes, everyone needs to work together to maintain them. And *glares around at some of the young 'uns* that means YOU.

In my experience (warning: I'm getting my crone on), when people say they need a "safe space" they too often mean "where no-one will tell me when I'm wrong and I can vent without learning anything." I will have no truck with that -- this is the Internet, and you *never* get to stop learning. And everyone gets to be wrong a *lot*: this is "trial and error", not "trial and perfect results every time".

So, to get more specific (because I *hate* vagueness), I think Seal Press's art department is unprofessional. After the uproar over cover #1, they had *no excuse* not to look at the pictures with a careful eye, and they didn't. It's really hard for me to say that I'd be interested in buying their books in the future, because it's pretty clear that they're not professional about their work, so why should I want to help them?

But also, it's got to be possible to say that a WOC messed up without pressing everyone's "racism alert" button. And here I'm going to try an experiment.

Tahlequah, if I say: "brownfemipower did a Good Bye Cruel World post and took down her site" -- does that strike you as demeaning, not just disapproving? What if I call it a Swan Song? In the fannish areas of the 'tubes I normally frequent, it *would* be called a Flounce, but that's partly for alliteration to go in "Fandom Flounce" and partly because of experience. In fandom's experience, people who say they're mad as hell and can't take it anymore *do* take their toys and go home ... and then some of them come back in a couple months under a different name. Or show up in another fandom under a new name, and do the same thing all over again. Serial flouncing seems to be part of some personalities.

BFP may have just been overwhelmed -- I've seen this happen before, the first time someone finds hirself in a true Internet blogstorm and just starts deleting wildly because ze can't cope. But from my cranky crone POV, she gets marked down as "possible flouncer", because that's what I call that kind of behavior. I do not see how it's a racial issue: it's a *people issue*, one of the many many Stupid Human Tricks available to us all.

And speaking of White Gals Who’ve Messed Up Occasionally, I have to agree that:
Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, Amanda’s gotta pop off and say stupid things she later regrets when she feels like she’s being attacked.
If we’re analyzing Amanda’s character and needs, she needs to learn more about where her inner Zen lives — no-one wants to see her become the feminist Bill O’Reilly.

But I also profess myself boggled at mnemosyne saying:
Amanda is one of the most divisive figures on the internet. My husband, who is very feminist and aware, will not read her because he gets too angry too quickly and finds it hard to think logically about what she’s saying.
?? *Really?!?* I mean, “divisive figures on the Internet” is a *large* category. What the heck button does Amanda push that makes him that angry?

Personally, I read Amanda’s posts because they’re often funny, kind of like the progressive-political version of Go Fug Yourself but with a better comments section. (exceptions apply.)

Foucault (hey, at least it’s not Derrida!):

My waiting for Pam to say something (and I wouldn’t have mentioned it on that Feministe thread if someone else hadn’t said something first) was because I didn’t know what to do, and a number of friends of mine (white and otherwise) were getting more & more upset. Pam blogs on race issues, I thought, Pam will lead me!

My own personal coloration is best described as “whiter shade of pale”, so I was trying to defer (to a certain extent) to the feelings of people who might have more personal feelings.

Re: hoping Amanda doesn’t get caught up in her own outrage, like Bill O’Reilly, I was thinking of a recent discussion at Making Light, trying to separate parody from trolling where SF writer Jo Walton said:
Picture the sad ruin of a once-great troll tearing at the very planks of the bridge he’s sitting under because he can no longer tell them from the goats he used to try to lure, and once they are gone, tearing angrily at his own hair, not noticing as he devours chunks of his own brain.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Standards of Beauty

Posted at Making Light, in Indistinguishable from Parody, which is mostly about troll identification.

Slight tangent: am I right in surmising that the singles scene is one of the reasons why the standard of beauty in the US is becoming the porn star?

I believe you are incorrect. I have seen what you're talking about, and I think it's due to the incredible ease of access to porn itself. I can't remember who pointed out (in a livejournal discussion, but that's all I recall) that these days the average 20-year-old man has seen far, *far* more women in porn than he has seen naked women in real life. His eyes are used to them, in a way that he won't be used to actual naked women.

What I noticed starting a few years ago is that young men stress thinness in young women much more than they used to. I've had a young man argue with me that male preference for slender women is "hard-wired", and that there must have been evolutionary change since the days of Renoir (!), because back then guys seemed to like fatties. *head desk*

When I was a young 'un in the 70s, the young men generally assured us young women that models & movie stars were *not* all that attractive to them, because they were much too thin -- and flat-chested, which made their assurances quite believable.

In recent years, though, the style in porn and in the rest of the entertainment industry has been for young women to be skinny but have breast implants, and this has gone along with the dissemination of free porn online. I think both men & women have gotten used to seeing skinny+implants women as the standard of sexy.

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Atheism, Religion, Statistics

Left at Slacktivist under The Guinness Book, about the writings & advocacy of Os Guinness, an evangelical who is ticked at the political machinations of the Religious Right. Anyway, we wandered off to discuss "The New Atheists", among other topics.

Froborr [who asked about statistics and a marble-picking game]:

The flaw is in trusting the person who told them there's a white marble in there.

Here's another example. Introductory statistics courses always have a Chapter One quiz where they ask, "if you toss a fair coin 99 times and get heads each time, what are the chances that the next toss will be heads?" And you're supposed to answer, "one-half."

But in life outside the classroom, the chances are that *the person who told you it was a fair coin is lying*, and you should keep one hand on your wallet as you back away.

In both the coin case and the marble case, the premise-behind-the-premise is, who do you trust to tell you the parameters of the situation?

As far as I'm concerned, Christopher Hitchens is a successful one-man demonstration that atheists can be perfect jerks, too. So far, the score-card looks to me like:

Atheists: can be kind decent people or total douchebags.

Theists: can be kind decent people or total douchebags.

Society-level atheism: can be associated with war, genocide, oppression, etc.

Society-level theism: can be associated with war, genocide, oppression, etc.

hmm. Not very helpful, is it?

The only difference there *might* be in the "but do you get a better society?" sweepstakes is that the evil of rationalistic atheist regimes may have a shorter half-life than theistic evil. So for instance, the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge were just as high on the atroc-o-meter as a particularly horrible religious war, but they didn't keep going for generations. Atheist atrocities are easier to *stop* -- it's easier to get over a bad idea than a bad faith.


I should have said, "atheist atrocities run out of steam more easily." The Stalinist, Maoist, and Khmer Rouge atrocities were not stopped by external forces -- but they were all dependent on a particular individual, and when he was gone they withered away. As you say, the problem is authoritarianism and fanaticism, and atheism doesn't provide the structure that will keep it going into the next generation.

I consider both Kosovo and Rwanda atrocities of religious societies, not atheist ones. Yes, the Rwandan genocide was not along religious lines -- but religion did no good, either. Indeed, for me Rwanda was what pretty much destroyed any inclination to believe that Christianity might be good for a society, because Rwanda is not only Christian, but pretty freshly-Christian, without centuries of cultural bad habits intertwined with its Christianity.

And yet, when push came most directly to shove, Christianity did Rwanda as a society no *good*. If something that justifies an enormous investment of human energy, time & caring by saying "it's a moral system" is not able to get most people to act morally in the most blatant sort of moral crisis, how can it truly be a moral system?

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