30 November 2008

A Conunundrum of a Quiz

Via James McGrath, I found the Belief-O-Matic quiz. Top five results above the fold, the rest are below.

There were several questions where, from my perspective, there was no meaningful distinction between two of the responses, so I picked the one whose wording I liked better. Probably choosing the other would have altered my results. I do find it amusing that I placed only at 51% as a "non-theist" when, in fact, I would accept that label. I wonder if this quiz considers it synonymous with "atheist"... The distinction that I make, which may or may not be standard, is that "non-theist" means simply "not a theist". Thus it would include polytheists, pantheists, atheists, etc. Atheist is sometimes defined in the same way, but I tend to think of it as "one who lacks belief in any god or gods." Feel free to attack these definitions in the comments, as I have no particular attachment to them. I just prefer to define my terms before using them.

Oh, as for my #1 result: Universalist, yes. Unitarian, green. That is all.

1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Liberal Quakers (89%)
3. Neo-Pagan (83%)
4. Theravada Buddhism (80%)
5. New Age (78%)

6. Secular Humanism (77%)
7. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (76%)
8. Mahayana Buddhism (75%)
9. Taoism (74%)
10. New Thought (63%)
11. Scientology (63%)
12. Reform Judaism (60%)
13. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (54%)
14. Orthodox Quaker (53%)
15. Nontheist (51%)
16. Baha'i Faith (49%)
17. Sikhism (45%)
18. Jainism (44%)
19. Hinduism (44%)
20. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (29%)
21. Orthodox Judaism (29%)
22. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (25%)
23. Islam (24%)
24. Seventh Day Adventist (22%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (20%)
26. Roman Catholic (20%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (7%)

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28 November 2008


UPDATE: Gumby the Cat has a more complete (and appropriate) version of the story. Stories like this make me wonder why anyone would specifically want the shopping season associated with their own preferred name of the holiday. Is it okay that the employee was trampled to death if he said, "Happy Holidays!" instead of "Merry Christmas!"? 'Cause that's the message I get from the "War on [Censored]mas" loons.

Below is half the text of a BBC news article. Emphasis mine.

Crowds of shoppers turned up at dawn to snare the best deals.

A worker died and at least three people were injured after being trampled by a crowd of shoppers at a Wal-Mart in the New York suburbs.

The day after the Thanksgiving holiday is viewed as an important test of how willing consumers are to spend.

Police said a throng of shoppers broke down the doors to the Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream, Long Island shortly after 5am, knocking the 34-year-old worker to the ground.

Electronics retailer Best Buy and department stores Kohl's and Macy's also opened their doors at dawn.

Toys R Us offered up to 60% discounts from 5am to 10am.

Several major retailers indicated that crowds were at least as large as last year's, but deep discounts are likely to hurt retailers' profit margins.

"The traffic is up compared to last year, but the bag count is down," said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group.

"There may be more casual shoppers, but they're not buying as much as last year."

Now, is it just me, or does a death deserve more than two sentences buried amongst a whole bunch of trivial shopping descriptors? At the very least, it ought to be set apart from the rest of the nonsense.

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Six Things

I've been tagged. I was wondering if I'd get hit with this one:

#1 Link to the person who tagged you.
#2 Post the rules on your blog.
#3 Write six random things about yourself.
#4 Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
#5 Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
#6 Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

So, six random things...

(1) My first lawnmower once plotted with my elm tree to kill me. See, a lawnmower is designed so that pieces of shrapnel dislodged from underneath it are very unlikely to go shooting backwards. So when the piece that holds the lawnmower blade in place shattered, the shrapnel flew off at an angle ... then one piece of it bounced off the elm tree back at me, and sliced across the inside of my right calf. I didn't feel much at first, just a mild sting. I looked down and saw blood. Naturally I was home alone at the time. I put one hand over the wound and hobbled into the house to wash it off and see how bad it was. It was (and still is) the deepest cut I've ever had. I wrapped toilet paper around it and tied it off with a torn up plastic shopping bag. Then I called my dad to drive me someplace to fix it up (he could still see and drive then). He took me to Physician's Immediate Care, and I found it quite entertaining to watch the doctor sew up my leg. Mildly painful, but still entertaining. And, yes, it is unlikely that there was a deliberate plot involved between the elm tree and the lawnmower, but the unlikeliness of the piece breaking and flying off in just the right place and at just the right angle... * peers suspiciously at the elm tree *

(2) I don't really understand the concept of cleaning one room at a time. If I did, I would probably clean more often. But I see the house as a whole. If it's all at roughly the same level of dirtiness, I'm okay with it. If one room is significantly cleaner than the others, then I have to level things out somehow or it will drive me nuts. Also, there are usually things that need to be transferred to other rooms, and how the devil are you supposed to do that without cleaning the rooms that the things need to go to? So I tend to clean the entire house in the same short period of time. I started with the living room this time around, and am currently working on the kitchen. Then probably my office, then my bedroom, then the cats' hallway, then the piano room, and then the store room. If I can at least get all the upstairs' rooms done, I can probably cope.

(3) My favorite raw vegetable is probably cauliflower. At least, when it's good and fresh and crisp, which is difficult to find, though I managed to get a decent head of cauliflower for our Thanksgiving veggies this year. The first place I can remember having Cauliflower, strangely, is at Godfather's Pizza Place in Pocatello, which is now defunct, not that I could eat there anymore even if it weren't. I remember thinking that the cauliflower looked like little trees, and I think I made up stories to go with them... something about a wolf coming to eat the forest, I think.

(4) I like wool socks. I went to two of the Black Friday early morning sales this year, one for my mom and one for me. The one for me was Sportsman's Warehouse, and their "Buy one pair of socks, get another for a dollar" deal. So I got 8 pairs of wool socks. Then I got four more tonight at CostCo. Probably not as good a quality as the one's from SW, but that's okay. Now, if only I could find some tie-dyed wool socks. That would be awesome!

(5) My color preferences tend towards extremes. I like extremely, eye-wrenchingly bright colors, and I like dark, saturated, deep colors. I like very little in between the two. Pastels, for instance, turn me off entirely. So do the oh-so-generic colors available at most of the box stores. The goal is apparently for the products to go with everything, hence they go with nothing. As far as combinations go, I also like to combine the extremes. My favorite combo is probably deep, deep purple with bright, bright yellow.

(6) The only show that I've made an effort to watch since losing cable is Mythbusters. Every so often, I'll scan the tv schedule at my mom's house to see if there's anything else that I might want to watch. So far, there hasn't been. This tells me that I'm better off not getting cable back, and just borrowing my mom's tv when new episodes of Mythbusters are on. And if she decides to cancel as well, I suppose I'll just wait for them to come out on DVD. It'll still be cheaper than paying for cable.

Now I'm supposed to tag six people... I can come up with four that I'm sure haven't done this one yet (some of whose blogs may be mothballed, but oh well): Aunt Bee, Kate, Fibonacci, and John. Enjoy.

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27 November 2008


Last week, I came across a rather bizarre screed claiming that non-theists must be miserable at Thanksgiving, as they have no one to thank. This strikes me as being exactly backwards. A non-theist has that much more reason to be grateful. There's no safety net. No supreme being watching out for everyone. Instead, everyone has to watch out for everyone else. There are many, many more people to thank with that point of view. Moreover, there's the universe itself, and the random chance that produced it. I feel more gratitude at watching a flower unfold of itself than I do at seeing some feat of engineering, complete with designer and blueprints. Impressive things are possible, but the most impressive of all is to allow things to be what they are. See what they are. Accept what they are. And be grateful, especially for all the little things that are so easy to pass by without noticing.

Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks be to all who do their best in this world.

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Useful Things

I got two sets of these silicone baking cups last week and tried them out today on the cinnamon pull-aparts. They work surprisingly well. I just lined them up in a cake pan, rubbed butter on them, and filled them. The dough did not stick to them at all, so far as I can tell, and being in the cake pan seems to have kept the rolls from getting overcooked on the outside (in comparison to the batch that was in a standard metal muffin pan). I can't be certain that the difference was due to the cups vs. pan, however, as the cups were on a higher shelf in the oven. Still, if you've been hesitant to try them, after one use I think they work well. It's possible I may revise this after a few more uses. We'll see.

UPDATE: Extra plus - they keep the cinnamon pull-aparts fresher. Slight minus - The sugar, etc., seems to like to stick to them, so that they don't come clean easily.

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GF Tips: Pie Crust

If you just want a recipe, go here. Below are my comments on the recipe.

I've been using Bette Hagman's "Vinegar Pastry" for quite a while, and I wound up making quite a few modifications to it, primarily because they make the dough easier to handle. See, we're trying to get GF flours to stick together and roll out nicely, even though it's the gluten that makes regular flour stick together. Xanthan gum only gets you so far. Eggs help, too, but they can only do so much. The key to making the recipe work for me was when I, for no reason that I can remember, replaced some of the "shortening" with olive oil.

First off, I can't actually use shortening, as it all seems to be made from soybeans these days, and soybean oil makes me ill. Same problem with margarine. So I'd been using real butter to make the crust, and it just didn't work very well. The year that I replaced a third of the butter with olive oil, though, the dough was suddenly manageable. Here is a site with (almost) the original recipe... I may have to try using featherlight flour instead of separately measuring the separate flours, but that's for next year.

So my primary modifications are to add extra eggs (I usually go for three) and to use 1/2 c butter + 1/4 c olive oil. I played around with that this year, decreasing the butter a bit to see if I could get away with it. Answer: not quite. I wound up having to re-mix and add some of the missing butter back in, as the first crust I rolled crumbled. Other modifications: I usually need more ice water than the recipe calls for, and I find that the dough is much, much easier to handle if you ignore the instructions to refrigerate it. Perhaps if I could actually use shortening, the refrigeration would help; I don't know.

The final tip? Get a pie crust bag. Yes, I know, the books say that wax paper/saran wrap/ etc. also works. Unless you've got double wide wax paper or saran wrap, it really doesn't. What I've got is no wider than my pie plates, and you need at least some excess.

GF Tips Index

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24 November 2008

Cleaning and Driving

That's what I've been up to the past two days. On Sunday, I got my living room 90% clean, which involved rearranging furniture. I hadn't actually planned to do anything beyond moving the recliner so that I'd have a place for the Christmas tree (which I will likely put up on Black Friday so as to avoid the Blackness). However, the more I looked at the couch, the more I thought that it was time to move it. As I didn't want to move the bookshelf/plant-stand from its spot at the south window, my options were limited. It finally wound up at an angle, facing the northwest corner, where I put the tv stand. The cats seem to like it in that locations, as there is now a cubbyhole behind it and they can climb through the VCR/DVD access area to get there.

As for today, I went to Idaho Falls with my mom. I'd originally planned to go back down to the Whole Foods and Barnes and Noble down in the Salt Lake area, but my mom wasn't acting very enthused and I didn't relish the idea of 6 hours of driving just to get there and back...so I scaled back. Downside: No GF/Soy-free chocolate chips to be found, but I can order those online. However, the Wealth of Health Nutrition Center on Woodruff has a surprisingly large selection of gluten-free items. Much more than the last time I stopped in there, which was 2 or 3 years ago. They didn't have the Enjoy Life chocolate chips that I was hoping to find, but, again, those are available online.

And now I'm seriously considering just going to bed. I seem to have worn myself out. I did wake up to an oddly random dream this morning. I was with the Mythbusters out in a desert canyon somewhere. Carrie was telling everyone to be careful not to draw the attention of "The Alpha," as in the leader of the wolfpack in the area. However, someone was speaking too loudly, using too many "ow" sounds, and we heard the howl start up. The wolves came in. They were... very small, and strangely doglike. One of them looked like a cross between Buster* and Socks*: the size and shape of a small terrier, but with tight black curly hair. The other one that I saw looked like Scamp*. This one I successfully distracted with a rotten piece of fruit (either a tomato or an apple), which he happily started eating. That was when my alarm went off.

*Socks: the first dog my family ever had. Small terrier with a spring in his step. Literally. He had some sort of neurological/genetic thing that made one back foot move like he was skipping.
Scamp: cockapoo; second dog my family had. Sort of. He was really Dad's dog. He tolerated me, but hated everyone else (including my mom). Well, not quite. A cat had adopted us around the same time we got Scamp, and they became buddies. The cat (Indiana) died a few years before Scamp did, and I remember how sad it was to see him looking around, checking all her favorite napping spots, trying to figure out what had happened to her.
Buster: Dad's current dog. Larger than the other two. Terrier-mix. He's a much sweeter dog than Scamp, though more mischievous.

As I'm pretty sure I'm rambling, I'll stop there.

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22 November 2008

Me Heap Big Thinker

INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

I found the Typealyzer over at Ed Brayton's place. I think my result is reasonably accurate, though I have gotten better about communicating ideas to people; teaching intro-level math classes for a few years will do that to you. However, judging by the comments, most people are not getting particularly accurate results. Also, some have tried putting in the URL for specific blog posts and comparing those results with the overall results...with little consistency.

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21 November 2008

Class Listings Amusement

I've been going through, debating what classes to take next semester, checking to see which books people are using, etc., and this was too amusing not to share:

Apparently the computer system isn't set up for the possibility that the class has no text. Thus you can order the nonexistent text if you wish! It's also amusing that the nonexistent text is optional. Does that mean you can use a text if you wish?

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20 November 2008

99 Things

I saw this over at Evolving Thoughts and couldn't resist participating. Anything in bold, I've done ... with occasional qualifications/details added beside.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (Origami)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (I think the stairway to the torch was closed due to safety concerns, but I remember distinctly being inside her head. It was more cramped than I expected. Also, the staircases are steep, windy things)
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (Sort of. This was actually back in 6th grade, when I was mostly bored out of my skull by how easy everything was; jr. high and high school were better)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (recent ancestors, anyway; my mom was born in Akron, Colorado!)
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself Learned a new language (German and Chinese)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Bluebird Cookies (Or maybe the organization is called "campfire"; either way, it's a lot like the Girl Scouts)
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check (Sort of. In fact, the bank mistyped a deposit, so the check only bounced due to their error, not mine.)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone (Sort of. Stress fracture, not a full break)
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car (Jean Luc!)
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper (Twice that I know of. Once when a guy from the Idaho State Journal was wandering around the math department on the Friday before break looking for someone to interview; once when a photographer from the ISJ happened by when Don was teaching us the sword form in the park and the photographer thought it made a good filler picture)
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (Trout and Bluegill)
88. Had chickenpox (Twice. Really.)
89. Saved someone’s life (Several times, my mom and I found grandma in the beginnings of an insulin coma and had to administer orange juice to get her blood sugar back up)
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (Star Con, anyone? My favorite was seeing Kenny Baker in person. I don't think he's more than two feet tall!)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

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19 November 2008

On Cats and Lateness

At noon, I generally let the cats play outside for about an hour while I'm preparing lunch, and then try to get them back in within a half hour of when I have to leave again. Up to now, I have had no real problem doing so. Today, Pouncer decided to be uncooperative. Finally, at 2:25 I got him to climb back into the yard from the alley and got him back inside. I did not quite make it to my 2:30 Theory of Knowledge class on time, but luckily Dr. Wahl was just talking briefly about the final when I came in, so I didn't interrupt someone else's presentation. Also, another person in the class (Robin, I think her name is) got there at the exact same time that I did, so that also lessened the effect.

And, no, I wouldn't let the cats play outside before a class that I was being paid to teach. That's just asking for trouble. ... I really, really need to get a gate put in the back fence next summer... Driving around to try and corral Pouncer doesn't work.

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18 November 2008

A Thought

Imagine if there were states in the country which refused to recognize your marriage. It was risky for you and your family even to travel through such states because, in the event that one member of the family was hospitalized, the others could be forbidden to visit, and would not be consulted on the types of treatments to be applied. Now, what type of marriage is specifically called into question in the so-called bible?

The re-marriage of divorced people.

Mark 10:2-12
2Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

3"What did Moses command you?" he replied.

4They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."

5"It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. 6"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.'[a] 7'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,[b] 8and the two will become one flesh.'[c] So they are no longer two, but one. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

10When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."

Now imagine that some of the states in the U.S. refused to recognize the validity of second, third, etc., marriages. There is prominent support for their attitude to be found in the "bible." On the other hand, the prohibitions against homosexual behavior (which are only ever implied) are in rather out-of-the-way places. No where do they receive mention in the "gospels." In fact, some will argue that Jesus implicitly endorsed a gay couple.

Gay couples face the situation I described above the fold every bloody day. They can be barred from visiting their partners in hospital (not "technically" family); they can lose children that they've cared for since birth if the birth parent is killed. There's probably a lot more that I don't know about. If you think that disallowing gay marriage is about protecting families, you're an idiot. It's about destroying existing families, because they don't measure up in some fashion. Exactly the same arguments were made against mixed-race marriage some fifty years ago. Why are you still making them?

And why, when Jesus himself called "remarriage" a form of adultery, are remarried couples recognized nationwide as genuinely married, yet gay couples are in most cases not allowed to marry, and have no recourse should their marriage not be recognized from state to state? Imagine if remarried couples were treated in the same fashion, if they could lose their children without any legal recourse, if they had no guaranteed hospital visitation rights if they crossed a state line. If it's not right for them to be treated this way, why is it right for gay couples to be thus treated?

(discussion of biblical divorce here and here)

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17 November 2008

Quite Villainous

Name That Movie Villain

Okay, I took this at work and got an 85% the first time through. The next time through I realized that I did recognize one particular name, and then the others I'd missed became obvious. I haven't seen every film they took villains from, but I at least recognized the character well enough to know what the movie was on all but one. I'd probably seen about half of the movies.

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How Many Was That, Again?

I named 9 planets in 30 seconds Can you name all the planets in our solar system? (in 30 seconds)

Erm, aren't there technicaly eight planets now, not nine? Technically one* of them is now classified as a dwarf planet. Oh well.
*aka, Pluto (didn't want to spoil it for anyone who didn't know who wanted to try the quiz).

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16 November 2008


The end of last week was insanely busy. That post from yesterday? I started it on Tuesday and didn't have time and/or energy to finish it until yesterday. It would have helped if I hadn't forgotten about the take-home test in Philosophy of Knowledge over the previous weekend. I thought of it Sunday night, and managed to get most of the Quine question written. Then I didn't have a chance to look at it again until Wednesday night. The theoretical due date was Wednesday, but he always adds a clause to the effect of "but you may turn it in as late as the following Friday."

At any rate, I did get it turned in Friday morning. Then I had to scramble and prepare for a test in Chinese. No clue how I did on that. I suspect it will be worse than my previous two tests. And how was everyone else's week?

(Pic. from my Valvehouse hike)

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15 November 2008


"To hear, one must be silent." ~Ursula K. LeGuin

It seems that some form of 'existential dread' is common in most societies; some fear a sense of emptiness, or of meaninglessness. Sometimes dubbed the "god-shaped hole", I think the best name I found for it is 'the ineffable ache'. The thing that I find strange is that most people either try to deny that the ache is there or try to cover it over somehow. Sometimes the covering over is a symptom of the denial, particularly in people who avoid introspection at all costs.

What I have to wonder, though, is why people do not explore this emptiness that they find inside themselves. It's there, a part of the identities of many people, yet they refuse to acknowledge it except in trying to hide it or escape from it. It's also odd that they assume emptiness is a bad thing.

Thirty spokes converge on a hub but it's the emptiness that makes a wheel work
pots are fashioned from clay but it's the hollow that make a pot work
windows and doors are carved for a house but it's the spaces that make a house work
existence makes something useful but nonexistence makes it work

~Dao de Jing, 11, trans. Red Pine

That emptiness inside, that sense of no-self, of a void, maybe that's telling us something, and maybe we need to be quiet enough to hear it. Not paper over it. Not cover it with music and chat and games. Not blind ourselves to it through the false comfort of religion. Just experience it, and listen.

It can be difficult going at first. We're so used to the constant chatter of our thoughts, of the people around us, of the television or radio or computer. Allowing the mind to become still so that the world can be reflected in it goes against most of what society tries to ingrain in us. Many people work so hard to cover up that ineffable ache that they don't even notice who they themselves are. Their very self-image comes from the constant chatter.

What is that you hear, when you allow the mind to be silent? I don't think it has a name. Giving it a name just reinforces our tendency to chatter chatter chatter. Some might call it 'God', but what is gained by that? Invariably, people begin to argue about the proper label, and claim that they've found the one true religion. Calling something the 'one true religion' makes about as much sense as going on about the 'one true science' or 'the one true toaster oven.' Reality never fits into the small box of any 'one true religion' (or any 'one true toaster oven', for that matter).

So stop trying to cover up that 'hole', and you may be surprised at what you hear.

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12 November 2008

Random Weirdness

I'm posting this mostly because I'm amazed that I recognize all but two of the characters. And what I can read doesn't quite translate as given, but whatever the other two characters are, presumably they contain the key to figuring out what it actually means.

From left to right: bú yào wèi nǐ de měi ?? ?? le wǒ

bú is a negation, so "not"; there's another word for don't, but depending on context, bú might be translated as "don't". Usually it's just "not" or "no".

yào means to want or desire, or can indicate future action; I wonder if "bú yào!" would translate as "do not want!" Possibly.

wèi ... well, the meaning I know for it is "for", but Bào Lǎoshī told us it had many other meanings.

means "you"

de is a possessive particle (think 's in English)

měi means beautiful or is used as the name for American. I don't think that's the usage here, though, as it's not followed by "guo", meaning "country".

The next two characters I don't recognize... le is a grammatical particle, generally indicating completed action. At least, that's how we've used it. It can also imply past tense.

Then wǒ means "I" or "me". There are no cases in Chinese.

So... "No desire for your beautiful (noun?) (verb-completed?) me/I.

If I remembered for sure where I'd put my Chinese dictionary, I'd try to look the other two up, but I think it's time for sleep now. Oh, the picture is from Engrish.com

Hmmm... I wonder if it's supposed to say, "Don't hurt me because I'm beautiful?" Presumably the missing verb, then, would be "hurt", and yào would be used in the sense of "future action", rather than "desire." For the moment, I'm leaving it, but that seems like a reasonable guess.

AM UPDATE: Found the first missing character. 美麗 (If those show up, the second one is the traditional version of the same character; mainland uses simplified, Hong Kong and Taiwan use traditional) It goes along with měi as "méilì ", apparently emphasizing "beautiful". And the second is 伤 shāng , meaning "injure" or "injury". So... "Don't for your beauty hurt me." I wonder if there's an idiom in there... The literal translation doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

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11 November 2008

Veteran's Day

On Veterans Day, we as a nation pause to honor those who have served their country. Problem is the Bush Administration doesn’t want us to know about their sacrifice. From refusing to allow the press to photograph flag-draped coffins of the dead, to covering up the suicides of veterans after they come home, the officials in Washington who lead us to war have done everything they can to hide it’s terrible cost.


How can we even begin to honor our veterans, if we don’t even track their sacrifice?

~Juan Cole

Read the whole thing.

Support the troops. Stop treating them as playthings to be sent on pointless missions at the whim of a liar and a madman. Thankfully, that liar and his cronies will be out of office soon.

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Weird Ads

Found here, which was a link from today's APOD. Presumably, what the ad means is that they'll ship you the paperwork about the star being named after you. However, that's not what it says, and I seriously hope they don't try shipping any stars to earth. So far as I know, there aren't any that wouldn't cause massive problems. Then there's the logistics of trying to find a truck big enough to haul them that wouldn't melt from the severe radiation... It's just a bad idea, all around.

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10 November 2008

Gluten Free Tips (3): Coatings for Frying *UPDATED 10 November 2008*

Okay, I've decided to rewrite the intro. Original text is below if anyone cares. I've tried all of these flour mixes on chicken, with the results listed below. I've now tried sorghum flour on fish, and it works beautifully, possibly even better than it works on chicken. I still do not use batters* of any kind, nor do I dip the meat in anything before coating it (though I do generally salt it first).

First, two disclaimers. (1) The only thing I ever bread to cook is chicken, but as of 22.March, I can say that sorghum flour also works well on fish. That's it. I figure that the flours I suggest will work similarly on other meats, but I can't be certain of that. (2) I do not make any fancy batters. The chicken is slightly damp, just enough for the flours to stick, but that's all. If you're into using eggs and milk and crackers, my experience won't be much use.

Below the fold is a list of the types of flours I've tried as coatings with my results. It will probably be expanded at some point(s) if I try other variations.

corn meal: Gives a very good coating. It's just a bit crumbly, but if you're careful this isn't a problem. Also works well mixed with sorghum flour.

corn starch: I never had much luck with it. Bette Hagman recommends putting some in a ziplock bag, putting the meat in, and shaking it to coat, but the coating winds up far thinner than I like.

potato starch mixed with corn meal: Similar to tapioca starch mixed with corn meal, but the potato starch doesn't bubble up as much. Haven't tried potato starch on its own yet. I have two problems with this mix: (1) It's very crumbly and doesn't stay on the chicken very well; (2) It absorbs massive quantities of oil. Tasted okay, but it's not one I really recommend.

potato starch mixed with corn meal and sorghum flour: Basically I took what was left from the above experiment and added an equal volume of sorghum flour. It worked much MUCH better than just the potato starch and corn meal. The potato starch adds a bit of thickening that just corn meal and sorghum flour lack. Still, I prefer corn meal and/or sorghum flour without the potato starch.

rice flour: I've never had much luck here. It sort of works, but it just tends to fall right off. I suspect that if you did make a batter of it, it might work better.

sorghum flour: Gives a nice, thin golden coating that stays on quite well. For a bit more thickness, I often mix it with corn meal.

tapioca flour: Wow. This stuff bubbled and thickened up as if I had made a batter. It wound up extremely thick and rather hard. It actually reminded me of the coating Wrangler used on one of their fish baskets. If you're into really thick coatings, then this is a simple way to get them, but I'd suggest using a pan big enough to leave space around each piece you fry; they tend to cook together. I tried mixing tapioca flour with corn meal and got a less volatile result, but I still prefer corn meal + sorghum flour.

*UPDATE: For those interested in a thicker coating that does use eggs to help it stick, try this recipe. Thanks to Aunt Bee for providing the link!

GF Tips Index

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Monday Art

For no particular reason, I thought it was a good day to post another one of these:

I named it "ducks" and then had to look at the picture for a while to figure out why I'd named it ducks. Incidentally, this is much easier to do with a touchpad than it is with a mouse (and would probably be easier still with an actual pen/stylus pad, if I had one). This one was done using a mouse. I can't get as many tight twists in when using a mouse.

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At my dad's house yesterday, I decided to grab on old stuffed toy of mine. It looks a lot like the one pictured above (which you can buy at the site the picture links to). Buster seemed curious about it, so I held it where he could see and then, just for fun, made a hissing sound just as he got close. Buster acted much more startled than I would have expected. When he came back to investigate again, I made the tiger hiss and jump again. Buster jumped back and started barking. He was so worried about the "tiger" that he didn't even notice when my dad offered him food. Finally I had to get the tiger out of his sight so that he'd calm down. Then when it was time to go, I pulled the tiger out again to see what he'd do. He hid behind my mom, peering out around her legs to see if the "tiger" was still "watching" him. Silly dog. ^/^

I have to wonder what, exactly, he's crossed with. All we know is he's a "terrier mix". Most of the terriers I've encountered have been fearless, recklessly so. Our first dog, Socks, was probably about 12-18 inches tall (I was small at the time, so I'm estimating). He had no problem confronting a dog two or three times as big as he was. Also a "terrier mix". Apparently whatever Buster was crossed with does not have the terrier bravado. Which is probably better in the long run, as he's less likely to pick a fight he can't win.

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07 November 2008

The Little Things in Life...

At Mind Hacks' weekly roundup I found a link to this article, discussing what it takes for people to become happier over time. The conclusion?

However, improvement may not come from major events such as winning the lottery, despite the seemingly life-changing nature of such examples. Rather it seems like the key for long lasting changes to well-being is to engage in activities that provide small and frequent boosts, which in the long run will lead to improved well-being, one small step at a time.

I find this of particular interest because it handily explains how my decision to engage in a daily practice of taiji and meditation was able to pull me out of the deep depression I found myself in after my grandma died. It gave me a "small boost" each day, and, over time, those boosts resulted in a lasting difference. Time helped, too, of course, but I'm honestly not sure I would have made it through the worst of it without that daily practice. I don't think I would have suicided, but I suspect that I would have gotten to the point of not being able to function. Sure, there are medications out there that might have helped, but I'll take meditation over meds any day.

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Obama's Plans

Obama and his team have put up a web-site detailing what they hope to accomplish. It's change.gov. I have only had a chance to skim it. Based on sheer volume of material listed, his priorities are the economy and foreign relations (both positive and negative aspects thereof). Those lists are so long that I just have to shake my head. The other lists look more reasonable and doable.

Other than that, my first thought was, "Wow. He's actually communicating what he wants to the People." There are some vagaries, but not as many as I expect from a politician. That's one thing that's struck me about Obama from the beginning. He manages to be a politician, who can speak the language of the politician, and still actually manage to say something meaningful. I may not agree with all of his goals (science policy is conspicuously missing from the front page issues), but that alone is impressive.

Either way, take a look if you want to see what Obama hopes to accomplish. (HT: James McGrath)

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Tao Te Ching, character by character

Okay, technically "dao de jing" is more accurate, but more people recognize the text under the old transliteration. Either way, I found a site that links to one version of the Chinese text and every character hyperlinks to its definition. The site is Zhongwen.com and the Dao de Jing is here. Oh, "zhongwen" is usually translated as "the Chinese language," though apparently "wen" technically refers only to the written component.

Before ever taking Chinese, I made an attempt to decipher some of the characters. I didn't get very far. The problem is that you need an understanding of the language structure to figure out a lot of the meanings. Even then, the Dao de Jing is a very old text, and character usage tends to change over time. Complicating matters, the original text contained no punctuation marks, so translators have to figure out where the breaks ought to go. Comma placement does matter, after all. There's even a book out. "Eats shoots and leaves" is quite different from "Eats, Shoots and Leaves".

Still, I quite enjoy going through the text character by character and comparing it with the various English translations I've got lying around. Though it's almost too easy at the site I just linked to. Last night, I began playing around with the Chinese dictionary that was an optional buy with my Chinese textbooks. It took me a while to work out how the thing works. The English side was easy enough, but looking up a Chinese character is tricky. Each character is made up of smaller units called "radicals". To start, you pick off the "first" radical (usually the leftmost one; possibly the upper leftmost one in a complicated character) and find it in a list ordered by the number of strokes in the character. That gives you a number, and when you go to that number in a second list, there's a list of characters that begin with that particular radical. From that list, you find the pinyin equivalent of the character. Then you go into the actual dictionary part and find the pinyin alphabetically, watching out for homophones. There you find potential English translations. It's a good idea to see if any of them contain the character you want plus the next character in the sentence, in case there's a compound word there where the separate meanings don't help you figure out the combined meaning.

While the process is complicated, it also makes the end result more memorable. It took more work to get there, so I have more of a chance, as well as more motivation, to try and remember it. Of course, I got stuck pretty quickly with Red Pine's version of the Chinese text. I suspect this is because he's using older versions of some of the characters, and I barely know enough to recognize some of the basic modern ones, let alone try to figure out what the older versions might have looked like. Still, it's enjoyable to be able to puzzle out bits and pieces of the text. It will take lots more practice and study before I can get much out of it without the help of existing translations, but it will be fun to try anyway.

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06 November 2008

Infrared Jupiter

This just may be the coolest picture of Jupiter I've ever seen. Er, no pun intended. The bright band in the middle is pretty hot, after all. Still, I find it a very soothing image, similar in mood effect to my continuous near-random curves that I posted earlier.

For more info (and a larger, better quality version of the image), visit today's APOD.

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04 November 2008

Hope Wins Out Over Hate

Image from Fivethirtyeight.com at 10:40 MST. It's official. Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States. This is the first time in at least the last 6 years, if not the last 8, that I've felt anything remotely resembling pride for my country. Disgust was more like it. Hopefully, president-elect Obama can turn things around.

It's also nice to see another racial barrier come crashing down. I rather like this take on it (mild language warning).

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To Wit?

Yeah, I've been posting a lot of these lately. But I rather liked this result.

Your result for The 3 Variable Funny Test...

the Wit

(57% dark, 8% spontaneous, 26% vulgar)

your humor style:

You like things edgy, subtle, and smart. I guess that means you're probably an intellectual, but don't take that to mean pretentious. You realize 'dumb' can be witty--after all isn't that the Simpsons' philosophy?--but rudeness for its own sake, 'gross-out' humor and most other things found in a fraternity leave you totally flat.

I guess you just have a more cerebral approach than most. You have the perfect mindset for a joke writer or staff writer.

Your sense of humor takes the most thought to appreciate, but it's also the best, in my opinion.

You probably loved the Office. If you don't know what I'm
talking about, check it out here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/theoffice/.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Jon Stewart - Woody Allen - Ricky Gervais

The 3-Variable Funny Test!

- it rules -

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02 November 2008

Religion, Spirituality and Mysticism

I’ve been musing lately on the relative similarities and differences between religion, spirituality and mysticism. I had a clear grasp of what I meant when I used the word religion, but the other two terms are rather slippery. In fact, I didn’t find any definitions for "spirituality" that really fit the way that I understand the term. I tried "spiritual" and didn’t have much better luck. But here’s my attempt to make sense of the three.

Religion is primarily external. In particular, it involves acceptance of some external set of dogma and, usually, exhibition of certain external behaviors: going to church/temple/synagogue/mosque/etc., reading a particular sacred text, burning incense/heretics/candles, and so on. It is primarily a social phenomenon in that regard. It is about being observed to follow a certain set of principles and behave in a certain manner. The internal state matters not at all as long as the external matches up.

Mysticism is primarily internal. The best dictionary definition I found was:

In religion, the attempt by an individual to achieve a personal union with God or with some other divine being or principle. Mystics generally practice daily meditation.

Union is the key word. It is no longer about spouting memorized dogma or adhering to behavioral standards. It is about experiencing the divine (whatever label you happen to give to it). More specifically, it is about experiencing a sense of oneness with all-that-is. Even the word "divine" is too divisive. It suggests something separate, when the experience is one of unity.

Spirituality seems to be somewhere in between the two, but probably lies closer to mysticism. There’s no particular dogma to it. Maybe the best description is that it involves a sense of being connected to something larger than the self: that sense of awe and wonder that often comes when looking at a sunset, or at the stars at night, or at a flower unfolding from a bud; a sense of amazement that anything exists at all; and a feeling of gratitude at being there at that moment to observe the intricate beauty of all-that-is.

Of the three, I have the least patience for religion. Yes, I’ve adopted some external trappings that I find conducive to my private meditation practice, but I have no use for "dogma for the sake of dogma." When a dogma helps set someone on a path, then it is useful. When the external trappings provide a mood conducive to seeking enlightenment, then they are useful. When the external becomes more important than the internal, then it is time to throw the external away.

When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.

~Zen Koan

For another depiction of spirituality, visit Science Musings (HT: James McGrath)

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01 November 2008

A few more Quizzes

I'm a Queen's Rook (in chess), a Commanding Officer (in M*A*S*H) and a Wiccan. The description of the Queen's Rook fits me pretty well. When I think of officers on M*A*S*H, I always flash to the episode where Klinger gets a new bunkmate who's really crazy and Klinger comments, "The only thing I can't figure is why he's not an officer." As for Wiccan... once upon a time, I would have called myself pagan but that was a long time ago. The formalized versions of Wicca, at least, were never to my taste. Of course, the test describes itself as the "Very Offensive Religion Test" and makes no claims as to its accuracy.

Your result for The Chess Mess Test...

The Queen's Rook

Congrats! Only 5-6% of the population score this!

The Queen’s Rook is a pensive, analytical individual. They don’t mind spending long periods of time on their own to work through problems. They may venture so far into thought they appear vacant or detached; often they really are oblivious of the world at that moment. These wayward princes are precise about descriptions and by habit correct others (or feel sorely tempted) if the shade of meaning is slightly off. This is annoying to the less concise, but this is what gives the Queen’s Rook a gift for gab, especially in writing.

This Rook is relatively easy going until their principles of truth, knowledge and justice are violated. Because of this they hate the formalities of bureaucracy, politics, and authority – which tend to mask the truth of operations. They will respond with a flip of the switch and become outspoken and inflexible. They will eventually drop the issue, because they do prefer a reserved and benign ambiance. The problem with the Queen’s Rook is when they are debating a point; they may be convincing themselves as much as their opponent. They spend a considerable amount of time second-guessing their abilities and may come to multiple conclusions that offer plausible solutions.

An indicator that a friend may be a Queen’s Rook is an obsession with logic. If a mistake is made, it is because there wasn’t enough data or it was placed out of context. Another indicator you’re friend is a Rook, throw a strategy game at them. They enjoy Risk, Bridge, Chess, and word games. Never rush the Rook. They don’t draw conclusions very quickly. If one were to gather a bunch of Rooks together to form a group they may debate:

1.) Whether or not there should be a group.

2.) Exactly what name should the proposed group choose?

3.) Which of the persons in the group should take responsibility or should they rotate?

Check out my other tests!

Changeling Type | Mage Sorter

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Your result for The MASH 4077 Test...

Commanding Officer

You scored 100

A true fan. You probably have seen every episode more times than you can count and still watch it in syndication or own it on vhs or dvd. Not much of anything slips by you. You are the boss with the brass.

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Your result for The Very Offensive Religion Test...


Take The Very Offensive Religion Test at HelloQuizzy

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