Jul 052018

Here’s the latest iteration of one of my favorite recipes which is for chicken curry. I’ve slowly modified various ingredients and cooking conditions over time. Currently I’m using a pressure cooker.

7 chicken tenders, or ~500gm
65 grams black chana
65 grams dal. This could be toor dal, chana dal, moong dal, etc.
65 grams coarse corn grits
85 grams barley
One coarsely diced onion. Currently I favor purple onion.
300 ml water
10 grams MSG
2 grams turmeric
1 & 1/2 tsp salt ~12 grams
1/2 tsp fenugreek ~3 grams
1/2 tsp whole cumin ~2 grams
1/2 tsp coriander seed ~ 1 gram
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes ~ 1 gram
1/2 tsp black pepper corns
dash asafoetida ~1 gram
160 grams peanut butter
500 – 1000 ml coconut milk

Soak black chana, dal, and corn grits in water overnight. Allow chicken tenders to defrost in the refrigerator. Rinse soaked legumes and corn in a colander and add to pressure cooker along with diced onion, chicken, barley, and water. Pressure cook for 25 minutes. At the end of the cooking cycle break apart chicken using a rigid wood or plastic utensil. I prefer the texture of shredded chicken to that of diced chicken, so this is somewhat a matter of personal preference. Add peanut butter and spices. I use whole spices ground with a small coffee grinder. Add coconut milk to desired consistence. Mix thoroughly. Allow the “keep warm” heating function of the pressure cooker to act as a slow-cooker and cook the curry for several hours before eating. The onion and dal will naturally cook into a purée, thickening the mixture. Stir periodically and add additional coconut milk as needed.

I add the peanut butter, coconut milk, and spices AFTER pressure cooking, as coconut milk will curdle somewhat. I see no need to pressure cook spices or peanut butter.

 Posted by on 07/05/2018 Culture Tagged with:  Comments Off on Whole Grain Chicken Curry
Nov 042016

I recall that when I was a child I would occasionally become embroiled in arguments. This being the days long before Google, the notion of “fact checking” in real time was a science fiction fantasy. Nevertheless, I recall using the term “physically impossible” as a knockdown argument in rebutting claims. I wish I could remember where I picked up this term. I don’t recall it was from Star Trek, so perhaps it was my mother. If one of my little friends walked into an argument that could be countered with “that’s physically impossible” then I won!

Not surprisingly, as time went on I found myself using the term less and less. I honestly don’t recall the last time I adjudged something to be “physically impossible.” Nevertheless, over time, I’ve given the notion of things being “impossible” some degree of thought. I’ve concluded that possible vs. impossible is not a binary, but falls on a continuum. I’ve come to this conclusion partly because I believe there are different ~kinds~ of impossible, or different “flavors” if you will.

Consider the assertion “it’s impossible to eat the sun.” Indeed, that’s a good example of something that’s physically impossible. Now consider a different sort of assertion: “I could be President of the United States.” Sadly, with the nomination of Donald Trump, the strength of this argument is weakened, as Trump so lowered the bar of what would traditionally be obviously disqualifying behavior. Yes, I am ~legally~ allowed to be President, but beyond that I possess a set of social and cultural characteristics that would disqualify. We see that “legitimate candidacy” falls on a spectrum, and is not a binary, thus the possibility of Presidency also falls on a spectrum.

Consider the assertion “It’s possible that I’ll have sex with Elizabeth Taylor.” This is obviously IMPOSSIBLE, but impossible in a completely different way than eating the sun or becoming president. Death is a binary, as is time travel, as far as we understand the laws of physics and biology.

Consider the assertion “I could run a marathon race.” That may not be physically impossible. I would have to achieve many small goals before attempting the main goal. I have two legs, I can run, and I’m generally physically fit. Many in my cohort have achieved this goal. So we see that this example falls on a spectrum much closer to “possible” than “impossible.”

So why discuss this issue at all? Why analyze the notion of “impossible?” What is the value of thinking out loud about this issue? I believe it’s possible to make profound changes in one’s life for the better. It’s possible to change one’s emotional and physical well being. Sadly, some people simply label reasonable goals as “impossible” when they really are not. I suspect they may be conceiving possible and impossible as a binary when it should be viewed as a spectrum. This is a much more realistic way of thinking about the subject. Rational solutions to problems entail utilizing the best models of reality we can muster.

 Posted by on 11/04/2016 Culture, Personal History Tagged with:  Comments Off on The Different Flavors of Impossible
Oct 132016

Here’s a counter-intuitive argument: Cultural appropriation is a good thing.

What, exactly, is being appropriated when cultural appropriation is said to occur? It’s a nebulous thing called “culture” which is to say it’s an idea, process, or behavior, rather than a physical artifact. Were the Hope Diamond to change hands, we would identify it as a purchase, gift, or theft, not an appropriation.

To argue that cultural appropriation is a good thing we start with the moral intuition that good ideas deserve to be spread and acted upon, while bad ideas should be stopped. If you accept that smallpox is a bad thing, then you should accept that smallpox vaccination, a process, is a good thing. We could define “good ideas” as those which lead to furthering human health and aesthetic joy. If you accept that human sacrifice to appease the gods is a bad idea, we should work to stop it and thankfully for our species we largely have.

Ideas, processes, and behaviors are not zero sum entities. Your vaccination against a dread disease in no way reverses or “steals” my vaccination.

Unless you suppose that a particular idea, process, or behavior occurred simultaneously to a group of people, it’s most likely that good ideas start with particular individuals. Most likely, at some point in our prehistory, some hominid decided to pad their foot with an animal skin, creating the first shoe. The utility of this good idea would have been evident to other hominids, and copied. We are all descended from humans who have “culturally appropriated” from this first group of enlightened hominids, who themselves probably copied it from an individual.

There seems to be a deeply human impulse to share good ideas. We love to express to those we care about our aesthetic discoveries, whether it’s food, clothing, music, movies, or really any stimuli which makes us feel good. This good and natural impulse is countered by those who define it, incorrectly, as “theft.”

Ideas, processes, and behaviors which are claimed to be “appropriated” are ones which are held to be positive values. Behaviors such as “black face” are acts of mockery, not appropriation. Caucasians who wear dreadlocks do so because they think it looks cool, not as an act of mockery. Thus the ~intention~ of what is held as “appropriation” is that of reverence. Intentions matter.

While I’ve been thinking about this subject for some time, I’d like to thank Peter Boghossian for the clothing metaphor. I fully support honest acknowledgment of where good ideas, processes, and behaviors come from.


 Posted by on 10/13/2016 Culture Tagged with:  Comments Off on Cultural Appropriation is a Good Thing
Jan 122012

I asked Roger Knights for permission to reprint this letter he submitted to Fate Magazine. His letter was printed in the September, 2005 issue. Knights had coined the word “scoftic” some years earlier and had used it on the internet, but I believe the Fate magazine article was its first use in print. I’d forgotten about the zinger of the “rational shell containing an inner nut.” Ha!

Roger Knights

During every vigorous and prolonged controversy each side invents nicknames for its opponents to indicate their errors, wrong-headedness, and bad faith. The best ones are so pointed and barbed that they “stick,” permanently damaging the public image of the other side. One such term is “woo,” another is “pseudoscience.” They effectively suggest the enemy’s rational “shell” conceals an inner “nut.” The further implication is that pseudoscientists are not only biased but untrustworthy. In thrall to their Inner Nut, they are prone to Believers’ Blather: exaggeration, omission, evasion, obfuscation, absurd reasoning, etc.

Our side’s comebacks have lacked its punch and pizzazz. Neither fundamentalist materialism nor pseudo-skepticism nor pathological skepticism nor sneer-quoted “skepticism” can match it as a Tenacious Taunting Tag. But my term, “scofticism,” fills the bill. It too implies its targets are posers: their posture of Rational Doubt (“Show me the evidence”) masks Die-Hard Denial (“I’ll see it when I believe it”). Its further implication is that scoftics are not only biased but untrustworthy. In thrall to their Inner Nut, they are prone to Slimy Scoftic Subterfuge: exaggeration, omission, evasion, obfuscation, dissimulation, etc. (Bills of particulars can be found on anti-scoftic websites. Start here and follow the links. My thumbnail definition of scofticism is “UNhealthy skepticism.” This is a play on the common phrase, “a healthy (dose of) skepticism.”

My coinage (which I’ve used since 8/13/03 on Bigfoot Forums. derives of course from scoffer and skeptic, hence the spelling (please retain!). It floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, so I urge its widespread adoption. However, it shouldn’t be applied to every disbeliever, only to those who are far from fair-minded, and who justify themselves by citing certain scoftical Doctrines of Denial. (An examination of which would require a longer article.)

You may (and should!) freely reproduce this article. [This line wasn’t printed in Fate.]

 Posted by on 01/12/2012 Culture Comments Off on The Origin of the Word Scoftic
May 022011

Way back in 2007 I had my first sighting. It was a bright, sunny day and I was walking on the footpath around Seward Park here in Seattle. Suddenly I saw it; a serpentine form sticking its slimy neck out of the water! Thankfully I had my camera with me and was able to capture this remarkable image:

I didn’t know what to do exactly; was there some sort of Lake Monster reporting center where I could log my encounter? Would they think I was a crypto-crank, a crackpot, a wanker, a chain-yanker, and mock my slithering serpent sighting? This beast was no beaver, or even an otter as some scoffing skeptics have suggested. No, it was the real deal, whatever it was.

But time moved on, and I began to doubt that I could ever see the Seward Park serpent ever again. But the fickle finger of fate has a way of appeasing the prepared, and lo! I saw it again! This time I was even closer, and managed to get off this quick pic:

I know it’s going to take a specimen on a slab for the skeptical scientists to take this seriously, but until that time I’m going to give it the tentative title of “Sewardsaurus.” Note that the second specimen seems to sport some sort of muzzle, or perhaps it’s licking a Frappuccino from a Starbucks cup. Though it’s no Ogopogo, a perfect palindrome like Aja, Aoxomoxoa, or Satanoscillatemymetallicsonatas, we see that “Sewardsaurus” is at least alliterative, like “Dover Demon” or “Fence Fiend.”

 Posted by on 05/02/2011 Culture, Hoaxes, Pseudoscience Comments Off on Second Sewardsaurus Sighting!